Cristina Gutierrez wins Stage One at Dakar
The soon-to-be Extreme-E driver Cristina Gutierrez won the overall stage in the Lightweight Vehicles category at Dakar and became the first woman to do so since Kleinschmidt in 2005.
The first stage of the most famous rally-raid in the world - the Dakar - made international headlines when Spanish driver Cristina Gutierrez won the overall classify in the Lightweight Vehicles class and led the category coming into the second stage on Monday, after the punishing 277-kilometre route of Sunday's stage.
The Dakar Rally is now well underway and, despite the soon-to-be Extreme E driver has since then dropped down to 14th place after Stage 3, the Spaniard became the first woman to win a stage since legend German driver Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005.
Gutierrez, who will contest the inaugural season of the electric-SUVs championship later this year for Lewis Hamilton's brand new X44 racing team, is at her 4th Dakar edition in the car category.
“There were lots of very tricky things on the stage." - commented Gutierrez after her historic stage victory. "We had one puncture, but I think everyone had at least one today. The work that my co-driver François (Cazalet) did on the navigation was incredible because it was so tough today."
In Stage 2, Cristina was 11th after another very challenging day of racing in the most demanding rally competition worldwide.
"Happy to get to the end of the stage after a day of many kilometres." - she added. "Very soft sand dune areas and sandy stretches of fast tracks. We've lost 7 minutes due to a failure in clutch assistance. We arrived at position 11th but we stay at a good pace".
Stage 3 was a bit more complicated and saw the crew of the #387 Red Bull Off Road team losing some more time.
"Complicated today, we fall into the general by getting lost for quite a few minutes but very happy with the rhythm we've taken. In the last part, we were able to cut 7 minutes to be able to continue fighting. The next stages we shouldn't make mistakes, so we'll get closer to the head."
Cristina Gutierrez is not the only female driver to tackle the Dakar race this year - not even the only Extreme E racer. Fellow Spaniard Laia Sanz (Acciona I Sainz XETeam) has in fact returned for her 11th edition of the rally.
Sanz - who is competing in the motorbikes class though - was P33 at the end of the first day, recovered three positions in the general standings after the second stage and closed Tuesday with the 26th time. She is now P29 in the bike class.
"Each day I am feeling better on the bike, with more confidence", she commented.
"I'm getting there in terms of pace, even though the position does not show it. The time differences are small. Everyone is still in the race and the pace is very fast. Now it would be good to have a stage like the first, where navigation was difficult."
"On the first day it felt like too much work. I was missing some running time and I struggled to find the balance between reading the roadbook and going fast. Now I feel much better."
Other female racers in the Bike category are Sara Garcia (P63) - at her second participation - Audrey Rossat (P85) and Sara Jugla (P91). In the Quad category Bolivian Suany Martinez is the only woman in the race and currently sits P13 in class.
It will be Camelia Liparoti's 13th entry at the Dakar, this year entering in the Lightweight Vehicle's class in an all-female team with co-driver Annett Fischer. They are currently 24th in the Yamaha YXZ1000R after Stage 3.
In the same category, American Kristen Matlock is experiencing Dakar for the first time and is in Saudi Arabia to learn as much as she can. After an accident in the second day, the Baja veteran will try to continue and defeat the desert in the coming days.
Last but not least, Amy Lerner and her Belgian co-driver Sara Carmen Bossaert are currently P18 in the Classic Rally - a regularity-based competition - onboard of a 1982 Porsche 911 SC 3.0.
Stage 4 (Wadi Ad-Dawasir to Riyadh) will be the longest stage of the race, with its 337 kilometres of winding roads.