British biker Sam Sunderland (R), winner of the 2017 Dakar Rally, is greeted by Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kucynski ahead of the 2018 rally's Lima to Pisco opening stage

Pisco (Peru) (AFP) - Britain’s Sam Sunderland got the defence of his Dakar motorcycling title off to a winning start on Saturday when he won the opening stage of the 9,000km race from Lima to Pisco.

Sunderland, on a KTM, finished ahead of France’s Adrien Van Beveren, on a Yamaha, and Pablo Quintanilla of Chile on a Husqvarna.

The British rider finished the 31km desert sprint in 20 min 56 sec with his rivals 32 sec and 55 sec further back.

The second stage of the two-week event takes place in and around the town of Pisco on Sunday.