With Portuguese driver Carlos Sousa behind the wheel, GWM/Haval* sprung a big surprise in the first stage of the 2014 Dakar rally by clocking the fastest time.
Sousa, driving the number 306 Haval H8, finished the challenging first leg of the race, stretching from Rosario to San Luis in Argentinia, in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds, 11 seconds ahead of Orlando Terranova in a Mini.
Proving that the turbodiesel-powered Haval H8 is a serious contender this year, the team’s second driver, Frenchman Christian Lavieille in car number 315, also finished in the top ten by crossing the line in eighth place. 2014 marks the fifth consecutive competitive outing for the GWM/Haval team, and follows two consecutive top ten finishes – Carlos Sousa finishing in sixth place in 2012 and 2013.
Following the stage Sousa declared himself a proud winner, and added that it was well-deserved, as the team had made no mistakes but completed the stage without air-conditioning in very hot temperatures. The team has confirmed that this problem will be fixed before the start of the second leg of the race, much to Sousa and his co-driver’s relief.
The next stage will feature a different kind of challenge altogether as the racing machines start tackling the first dune sections.
The standings following Stage 1:
1. Sousa #306 (Haval H8) = 2 hours 20 minutes 36 seconds
2. Terranova #307 (Mini Countryman) + 11 seconds
3. Al-Attiyah #301 (Mini Countryman) + 47 seconds
4. Roma #304 (Mini Countryman) + 1 minute 15 seconds
5. Sainz #303 (SMG Buggy) + 4 minutes 3 seconds
* Haval is the premium SUV division of GWM.