Marking the final round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, the event sees the return of Antoine Meo to competitive action.
The Frenchman was actually fastest but was later handed a six-minute penalty for speeding, which handed the early lead to Sunderland.
Teammate Matthias Walkner jumped up to second with Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla third.
“I had a really good ride today,” told Sunderland. “The stage was only short but I had a good feeling on the bike.
“Some of the route was a little dangerous in places with blind rises and some hidden corners, but overall it was ok and I am happy with my time.”
It was actually a busy opener with several riders, including Sunderland and Walkner finding themselves docked 20 minutes for missing a checkpoint.
It was later found that checkpoint was not marked on the road book and the original result would stand — despite a protest from the Honda team.
Third place went to FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship leader, Quintanilla.
Opening the stage, Quintanilla was at a slight disadvantage, but the Argentinian was happy with how the first stage had gone.
“It’s always important to have a good first day at these multi-stage rallies,” said Quintanilla. “I’m looking forward to some more strong stages during the next few days.
Fourth place on the stage went to Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren.
Although the Yamaha team are not officially riding the OiLibya Rally, the time put in here is invaluable for Van Beveren’s Dakar training.
Sanz fifth fastest
One of the best rides of the day went to Laia Sanz. The Women’s Dakar Champion posted the fifth fastest time on the stage and was over-the-moon with her new KTM 450 Rally.
“I really enjoyed today,” told Sanz. “There is nothing better than when you have a good feeling with your bike and everything goes well.
“The stage was short, but I’m so happy with my result. I’m looking forward to the rest of the rally.”
Mixed Problems for Honda
The Monster Energy Honda Team had mixed fortunes on the Super Stage.
Kevin Benavides placed a strong sixth despite riding relatively steady due to the dangers and not wanting to make any silly mistakes.
“I tried to take it easy because there were some dangers, such as cliff edges, so it was not advisable to go crazy,” admitted Benavides.
“I do not want it to sound like an excuse, but the airline lost my luggage and I’m not very comfortable with what I have to wear. I hope it arrives today and can follow the rest of the race with a bit of normality.”
Honda’s Ricky Brabec finished ninth with Paulo Goncalves coming home 14th after making a small mistake out on the stage.
Top Sherco rider for the day was Adrien Metge, who finished a creditable eighth.
With the top-15 riders choosing their start positions for the full stage one, Metge bravely decided to start first and open the stage.
At 860km, stage one is the longest of the rally, with a timed special stage of 272km.
It is the first of five full stages that make up the event, with riders covering a total of 2600km.