The 40th annual Dakar Rally – and the 10th consecutive year the world’s most arduous endurance race has been held in South America – kicked off Saturday in Lima, Peru and traveled to nearby Pisco, Peru for Stage 1.
The Rally will continue on through January 20, with 14 stages and nearly 5,600 miles to be traversed across Peru, Bolivia and ending up in Argentina.
MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors
Here’s some of the top video action from Saturday’s Stage 1:
In the marquee Cars class, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah – a two-time Rally winner – took his Toyota to the No. 1 spot in a time of 21 minutes, 51 seconds.
Defending champion Sam Sunderland of Britain (although he now lives in Dubai) had an outstanding first Stage, clocking in at 20:55 to grab the early lead in the class.
The Czech Republic’s Ales Loprais, considered one of the favorites, got off to a great start with a run of 25:15 on the 31-mile course, the shortest of the Rally’s 14 days.
Chile’s Ignacio Casale got a huge jump with his Yamaha in the quads, ending with a one-minute edge over Russia’s Sergei Kariakin.
Saturday’s Punta del Este ePrix did not disappoint, with Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi engaging in a thrilling battle throughout the entire race.
Vergne led the way from the pole, having been promoted up the grid after original pole sitter di Grassi was ruled to have cut a chicane during his pole lap, but di Grassi was right on the back wing of Vergne the entire way and made several attempts to get by.
The intense battle between the two, which saw them nearly lock Vergne’s rear wing with di Grassi’s front nose, stayed remarkably clean for the most part, and Vergne was able to hold off all of di Grassi’s advances, a few of which can be viewed below, to take the win.
DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird was also on the charge, the British driver coming from ninth on the grid to take third.
Full race results can be viewed here. The victory sees Vergne extend his points lead over Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, who finished fifth, to 30 points, with Vergne on 109 markers and Rosenqvist on 79.
Bird sits third with 76 points, respectively.