Nani Roma made the perfect start to his bid to retain the cars title at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as he set the fastest time on Saturday's opening special stage on Yas Island.
The Spaniard lapped the short course in a time of 2 minutes, 05.49 seconds in his Mini All 4 Racing car, to be fractionally quicker than Brazilian Reinaldo Varela’s Toyota.
Roma, who won the Dakar Rally in January, is again paired with co-driver Michel Perrin, who he won this event with 12 months ago.
Marek Dabrowski, the Polish driver competing in a Toyota, completed the top three in the car rankings.
There was a surprise in the bikes competition as it was Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort who went quickest, lapping the course in 2:04.08.
Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland was second, a second behind Bort, but he had the consolation of being faster than his KTM teammate Marc Coma, the defending champion in the bikes.
Coma has won the competition in seven of the past eight years.
The first main stage in the desert begins Sunday, with five stages taking place in all before the event concludes, back on Yas Island, on Thursday.
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