Roma Takes Dakar Rally Lead, Spectator Dies after Stage 1

Nani Roma, none other that the former Dakar Rally winner in the motorcycle category, has taken off to a 2-minute lead in this year’s car competition. The BMW driver managed to outscore his nearest rival Carlos Sainz by 2 minutes and 7 seconds after the very first stage of the rally, from Colon to Cordoba.

The Spaniard benefited from a clear road ahead of him in Day 1, as he started 5th in the opening stage of the rally. Nevertheless, he admitted he didn’t expect to take the stage win by such a comfortable margin, and insisted that the fight against the powerful VWs is yet to begin.

“In the end we were quite surprised by the time we achieve. But, I'm happy. We had a fright with the engine in the middle of the special stage and had to stop to make a few checks. But everything was running okay. I think it was an electrical problem, but since it was working, I preferred not to interfere with anything. We haven’t really had a battle with the VWs yet. There is still a lot of the race to go. In any case, it was a good special stage for warming up,” said Roma, according to Autosport.

The Top 3 was completed by Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, while Volkswagen’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers (last year’s winner) had to settle for 4th and 5th respectively. Robby Gordon took his Hummer to 6th place, followed by Nissan’s Krzysztof Holowczyc and VW’s Mark Miller. The overall Top 10 was completed by Leonid Novitzkiy (BMW) and Mauricio Jose Neves (VW).

Unfortunately, the first stage of the rally also brought the first victim of the 2010 edition, as it was reported that a spectator by the name of Sonia Natalia Gallardo was struck by the Desert Warrior of German driver Mirco Schultis in an accident 75 kilometres into Saturday's Buenos Aires to Cordoba stage. She died on the way to hospital.

According to race organizers ASO, the victim was in an area “which was not part the designated spectator zones set up to ensure safe viewing.” She wasn’t alone in that area, but the other persons escaped with minor injuries.
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