ROSARIO, Argentina – The 38th Dakar Rally has ended in Rosario after a short 180km stage with Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot) wrapping up his sixth triumph in the car category and Toby Price, racing in the motorcycle category, stamping his name on the list of winners for the first time.
South Africa’s ace driver Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz finished third overall in his South African-built Hilux bakkie and fellow-countryman Brian Baragwanath was third overall in the quad race.
‘EVERY REASON TO BE PROUD’
De Villiers’ bakkie team mates Leeroy Poulter and Yazeed al-Rajhi finished fifth and 11th overall respectively and team boss Glyn Hall said later: “That all three factory Toyota Hilux race vehicles completed the race is fantastic but to have two in the Top 10 and Yazeed 11th is a great achievement.
“We have every reason to be proud of our car and the lads who drove them to such stunning finishes.”
Marcos Patronelli took another victory in the quad race while Gerard de Rooy made it two in the truck category. Today’s stage was marked by Sébastien Loeb’s fourth victory and Pablo Quintanilla’s triumph in the motorcycle race.
Peterhansel is now a six-times winner of the car category, equalling the number of times he won the Dakar on a motorcycle.
However, according to the official Dakar news website, it was no walk in the park for the Peugeot driver. As a master strategist Peterhansel bided his time when his famous new team mate, Sébastien Loeb, took the race by storm in the first week. Some pressure here, some psychological warfare there and a minimal number of mistakes made the difference between the Peugeot drivers and separated him from other rivals.
Peterhansel was also the only Peugeot team driver to avoid trouble, a clear sign that restored the brand to glory 26 years after Ari Vatanen won at the wheel of a 405.
Nasser al-Attiyah gave a first-class performance at the wheel of his Mini, the Dakar site reported He was never far from the Peugeots but we’ll never know what he might have achieved had he not barrel-rolled at the entrance to the dune fields of Fiambalá.
DE VILLIERS: ‘WE WAGED ALL-OUT WAR’
Then there’s South African Giniel de Villiers who finished third overall and featured in the top three for the fourth consecutive section. “The rock-solid South African,” the Dakar site said, “earned Toyota another podium – quite an exploit in view of the star-studded field though he has won the race before.”
De Villiers said at the end: “We waged all-out war for the podium with Mikko Hirvonen. I pulled out all the stops on Friday, on Saturday I drove defensively. I’m happy for Toyota and the team to keep the podium spot.
“The first week was frustrating. We were behind the Peugeots and even Nasser al-Attiyah, with all that altitude and sand (the five-litre Hilux engines are not turbocharged so lost speed at altitude). We need to improve our top speed. Congratulations to Stéphane for his 12 victory and to Peugeot.
“I’m happy with the reliability of our vehicle but it’s difficult to hold our own against turbo engines. The Peugeots are very fast. We’re reliable but not fast.”
Will he do another Dakar? “This was my 13th and my fifth podium. I’ve only won once but I hope to win again soon.”
AL-ATTIYAH: ‘GINIEL WAS A SERIOUS THREAT’
Nasser al-Attiyah saw De Villiers as a serious threat and no doubt will in 2017. “Two men had me worried before the start,” he said after the race. “Stéphane [Peterhansel] and Giniel [De Villiers]. In the end, it’s the three of us on the podium.”
Whether al-Attiyah will race again in the Dakar remains to be seen – he hasn’t been booked yet…
Sébastien Loeb, nine-times winner of the World Rally championship, lit the fireworks in this the 38th Dakar. He won four stages, spectacularly veered off-course, was plagued by mechanical problems – the whole rally-raid package – and the last two must have been bitter lessons for the nine-times World Rally champion.
“Every journey starts with a single step,” the site reported, “and Loeb is a fast learner…”
Toby Price proved to be another fast learner, the Dakar news site added, The Australian KTM rider, third on his first Dakar a year earlier – rode smartly to grab a clear win. If KTM wants somebody to fill Marc Coma’s boots, the heir is here! Price is the first Aussie to win the race.
Behind him KTM team mat Štefan Svitko continued to make progress. He was ninth in 2014, fifth in 2015, this year he made the podium. Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla took the third step.
Price’s win came at a heavy cost to team mate Antoine Meo who followed team orders to escort Price home. Two days earlier he was running third overall with two stage wins but a serious fall in the penultimate stage ended the chances of triumph for the five-time World Enduro champion.
The Aussie said after the podium celebration: “I’m in shock, I never would’ve thought I could win this race in my second participation. Being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane – finishing the rally is already a triumph but winning is amazing!”
The Patronelli Brother, Marcos (a three-times winner) and Alejandro, made a perfect comeback in the quad category though South Africa’s Brian Baragwanath put up a great fight and made the African nation proud with third overall – we want to see him back in 2017.
Finally, Gerard de Rooy took his second win in the truck category without breaking a sweat. Iveco’s Hollander prevailed over 2015 champion Ayrat Mardeev and Federico Villagra, the latter an Argentinian trying the truck category after two tries at the Dakar in a car.
All in all, 84 motorcycles, 23 quads, 67 cars and 44 trucks completed the 9500km race out of 358 competitors on the start – a finish rate of more than 60%.