Stephane Peterhansel managed Nasser Al Attiyah on the last stage to win the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia yesterday, 30 years after he first won the world’s toughest rally.
Peterhansel took a handy 15-minute lead into the 12th and final stage from Yanbu, and stuck close to Al Attiyah, who gained only 40 seconds overall on the 200-kilometer special south to Jeddah, where the race began on Jan. 3.
The victory was the 14th for the Frenchman dubbed “Mr Dakar.”
It was his record-extending eighth in a car, on a third different continent. They follow his record six victories on a motorbike, the first in 1991 when the race used to start in Paris and finish in Dakar, Senegal. He’s 55 and still buzzed by competing and winning.
“There are no easy victories on the Dakar. This one from the outside maybe looked easy, but it was not easy every day to manage the small gap over Nasser. There was a lot of pressure on the body. We felt every day that we had everything to lose,” he said.
He led the race from stage two. From that day he was off the podium in a stage only once (a fourth), and paid tribute to the navigation skills of his new co-pilot Edouard Boulanger, another former motorbike race in the Dakar.
The closest Al Attiyah got to Peterhansel overall in the second week was five minutes on Monday. He was undone by 16 punctures. The three-time champion from Qatar was runner-up for a fifth time, his ninth podium, and more disappointed than last year, when his Toyota also split the Minis of Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz, the 2020 champion, won his third stage but finished an hour back in third overall.
The new motorbike champ was Kevin Benavides of Argentina, who finished only two minutes behind Honda team-mate and stage winner Ricky Brabec and won the race by less than five minutes from Brabec, the defending champion from the US.