Carlos Sainz exorcised the demons of twelve months ago as he held off a determined Nasser Al-Attiyah on today’s final stage to add a Dakar victory to his two WRC titles.
The Spaniard started the final 206km with an overall lead of 2:48 over his VW teammate, which immediately started to be whittled away as Al-Attiyah (and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk) started at an astonishing pace, racing to the first timing point at 66km in only 25 minutes.
However, Sainz, with Lucas Cruz in the other seat, was right behind, making the most of the favorable conditions, cutting down on the dust hanging in the air. He came to the same point only four seconds slower than the Qatari.
On the fast, flat run to Buenos Aires, it was always likely to take an error or mechanical problem to take the win away from Sainz, and unlike last year, it was a mistake he never looked like making.
Instead, Al-Attiyah was the only one to show signs of the pressure affecting him, missing a corner on the route and losing crucial seconds reversing back onto the road. But despite that minor slip up, he kept the stage lead with Sainz in second place, eighteen seconds behind.
Then 24, then 34. It was agonizing to see the gap extend, but it was only pulled out to 36 seconds by the end of the stage, with Sainz taking the overall win by the relatively tiny margin of 2:10.
BMW pair Guerlain Chicherit and Stephane Peterhansel finished the stage third and fourth fastest, previewing what could be a tremendous rivalry between the German marques in years to come. Mark Miller was fifth on stage, finishing third overall to once more top American in the standings (Robby Gordon finished seventh today, and eighth overall) and complete a VW podium sweep.
In the bike class, the lightning fast stage allowed Cyril Despres home with his hour lead intact, while his Red Bull KTM teammate Ruben Faria dominated the stage, winning by nearly four minutes on a day when the fastest riders completed the stage at an average speed to 150km/h.
Faria beat Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter, who was the first bike to start the final stage. His second place was more than enough to hold onto second overall over Chilean Francisco Lopez Contardo, or Chaleco, who finished the stage 10th fastest, over two minutes behind the KTM man.
The other major battle in the top five remained unchanged as French amateur Alain Duclos was unable to overturn his three minute, three second deficit to David Fretigne. Duclos clearly had designs on fifth place. Starting as the fifth bike on the stage, he kept pace with the more experienced riders ahead of him, never more than a minute behind Ullevalseter’s time.
But Fretigne stayed close behind Duclos on the time sheets, no more than a matter of seconds separating them for much of the stage, before the pair finished fourth and fifth on the stage, their times were only 21 seconds apart.
Jonah Street, riding for the Rally Panam team, was the best American in the bike category, finishing seventh overall, with a time of two hours and 49 minutes, behind Despres. Meanwhile, last year’s winner Marc Coma, who finished eighth on the stage, finished 15th overall with a time of six hours and 32 minutes adrift of Despres.
The trucks saw a first of this year in the final stage.
Perhaps taking the finale easily, the leading duo of Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov slipped in to finish the stage fourth and fifth, meaning this was the first stage either of them had won.
Instead, the final victory fell to their teammate Ilgizar Mardeev, while the Ginaf of Wulfert Van Ginkel and the Liaz of Martin Macik relegated the usual suspects to the minor roles.
The stage however, made no difference to the overall standings, as Chagin won his sixth Dakar crown by over an hour from Kabirov. The pair of them, illustrating Kamaz’s dominance, were nine and a half hours ahead of Marcel Van Vliet.
The final quad stage saw the coronation of Marcos Patronelli, who won the category by well over two hours from his younger brother, Alejandro. While Pole Rafal Sonik won the stage from Christophe Declerck, the crowds of fans in Buenos Aires welcomed home the victorious Argentinean brothers, two weeks after Marcos was the first competitor to make the run through the city’s streets in the ceremonial start.
Stage 14 Results:
1. Ruben Faria (KTM) 1h26:48
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +0h03:45
3. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0h03:57
4. Alain Duclos (KTM) +0h04:34
5. David Fretigne (Yamaha) +0h04:55
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) 1h19:42
2. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h00:36
3. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +0h00:43
4. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0h01:08
5. Mark Miller (VW) +0h01:39
1. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) 1h45:27
2. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +0h04:03
3. Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0h07:46
4. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +0h17:45
5. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h17:51
1. Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) 1h41:36
2. Wulfert Van Ginkel (Ginaf) +0h02:04
3. Martin Macik (Liaz) +0h02:20
4. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0h02:42
5. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0h03:57
Final Overall Standings:
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 51h10:37
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +1h02:52
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +1h09:48
4. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h19:33
5. David Fretigne (Yamaha) +1h55:56
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 47h10:00
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h02:10
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h32:51
4. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +2h17:21
5. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +4h02:49
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 64h17:44
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +2h22:59
3. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +5h07:31
4. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +5h46:56
5. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +5h50:24
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 55h04:47
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +1h13:08
3. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +10h43:20
4. Martin Macik (Liaz) +12h21:21
5. Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +14h59:29