Abu Dhabi Racing boss and driver Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi and co-driver Pascal Maimon opened their 9,000km Dakar Rally endurance behind the wheel of a Peugeot 2008 DKR on a positive note having completed the opening stage of 454km from Asuncion in Paraguay to the overnight halt in Resistencia in Argentina in top 20 out of 77 cars.
Having completed his pre-rally preparations first in the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi and then Dubai, Sheikh Khalid arrived in Paraguay and immediately got down to work with his crew ahead of the short 39km prologue from Asuncion in Paraguay, the ceremonial start was attended by thousands of rally fans.
Obviously enjoying his new experience in the world’s biggest cross-country rallies, Sheikh Khalid is now looking forward to the next 11 stages ahead of what is a two-week long testing time for both man and machine.
Sheikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qassimi said: “This is amazing; thousands of fans here in Paraguay to witness their first Dakar Rally. This experience is really thrilling and overwhelming!
“This is my debut at the Dakar so this short first stage of 39km in Paraguay and then driving down to Resistencia in Argentina for the next stage was all about learning and I am sure that I will continue to learn over the next couple of weeks.
“Obviously, the main aim is to finish the Dakar Rally and bring the car home safely but should the opportunities be there I will not hesitate to raise the bar.
“The motivation is very high; this is just the beginning and there will be hard times ahead but I aim to be up to the challenge.”
The Dakar Rally 2017, will cris-cross through three South American countries from January 2-14 (Paraguay-Bolivia-Argentina).
With the addition of Paraguay for the very first time, the Dakar visits a 29th country in its 39-year-old history, the 5th on the South American continent.
The second stage on January 3 comprises of 803km, of which 275km will be competitive, from Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman in Argentina.