Motorcycle surprises as Dakar 2024 kicks off with Prologue

Dakar 2024 kicked off with the short, sharp 24 kilometre Prologue on Friday as the quads and then the motorcycles set off in reverse order. Although the day’s result is purely academic, and many competitors likely veiled their true pace, the Prologue often reveals unexpected results and combinations to watch in the coming fortnight and the results produced a few surprises.

Not least first of the pro riders home, Spaniard Tosha Schareina made his name known by going quickest aboard his Honda and stayed there. He fended off Aussie Daniel Sanders GasGas and Botswana Dakar hero Ross Branch riding his Hero. Frenchman Adrien van Beveren’s Honda starts Saturday fourth, ahead of 2023 winner Argentine Luciano Benavides’ Husqvarna and British former double Dakar winner Sam Sunderland’s GasGas in sixth.

He will be followed away by Chilean Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda, factory KTM duo, Aussie Toby Price, and Argentine Kevin Benavides KTM. Mason Klein will be relieved to start after delays in clearing his Kove and he celebrated by riding in tenth ahead of Martin Michek’s KTM. Among the stories of the day however revolves around the man in twelfth.

With the bikes starting in reverse order, it did not take too long for the first wildcard to emerge, although multiple South African motocross and Cross Country champion, Dakar rookie Kerim Fitz-Gerald’s pace on his BAS KTM came as little surprise to many. He put three minutes on the rest of the field and it stayed that way until the next 60 machines had finished, when the gap only started to come down slowly.

The big guns were however all still to come, but Fitz-Gerald’s pace was good enough to secure the quickest amateur R2 time in twelfth overall and ahead of several of the GP class pros. Of the other Southern Africans, SA cross country champion Bradley Cox KTM was 21st overall and fourth in R2.

2023 Malle Moto winner Charan Moore enjoyed a steady qualifying to see him lining up 34th on his Husqvarna, six places clear of South African 2023 rookie winner, Michael Docherty 40th on his KTM. Another SA rider, rookie Ronald Venter impressed in 42nd on his KTM, while no-service Malle Moto rider Stuart Gregory ended 114th on his KTM, and Zimbabwean Husqvarna rider Ashley Thixton starts Saturday in 121st

Further back, Argentine Francisco Moreno Flores was the quickest to claim pole position among the quads from compatriot Manuel Andujar and French rider Alexandre Giroud. Watch for the car results here later today. Dakar’s first full stage is a 532 km race to Al Henakiyah on Saturday. Come back for news on that through the afternoon.