World’s toughest race delivers worthy champions
The last day of this ultra-challenging Dakar Rally had one final surprise left in store for competitors who had braved the conditions to make it that far. Torrential rainfall created a dangerously slippery piste that led to race organisers shortening today’s timed special stage. It turned out to be good news for the overnight leaders of all four race categories as they were able to hold their positions on the route into Buenos Aires.
Walking away with his fifth bike title after a display of consistent speed combined with immense race management know-how is Marc Coma. The biggest threat came from Joan Barreda who led the race by over 12m from Marc in the first week. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team captain successfully chased down Joan to score this extra special win as it’s the first time he’s been able to string together back-to-back victories. The Spaniard is now without doubt among the pantheon of Dakar greats, alongside his “best of enemies” Cyril Despres who also collected five bike wins.
Marc Coma’s dominant display on two-wheels to give KTM their 14th consecutive Dakar title was matched in the car class by Nasser Al-Attiyah as the Qatari led the race from the second day before toasting victory at the conclusion of the final stage. The Qatar Rally Team racer and co-driver Matthieu Baumel have been the personification of cool from beginning to end, controlling the race, going fastest on six stages and never finishing a stage lower that seventh (with Nasser suffering from altitude sickness on that occasion). It will be some celebration tonight as Nasser is crowned Dakar champ for a second time and Matthieu scores his first win on his birthday of all days.
While the bike and car races provided masterclasses in how to lead from the front, the most emotion-packed victory was to be found in the truck class. Ayrat Mardeev followed in his late father’s footsteps in becoming a racing driver for Kamaz Master and today he managed to achieve the dream that always eluded Ilgizar Mardeev, who passed away six month ago – winning the Dakar Rally. The Russian team were visibly overcome by the result as they embraced at the finish-line with Kamaz Master trucks parked in all three podium positions – thanks to previous Dakar winners Eduard Nikolaev and Andrey Karginov who ended the race second and third respectively.
Final results (Cars):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Qatar Rally Team 40h 32m 25s
2. Giniel de Villiers (RSA) Toyota All Speed +00:35:34
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL) Mini +01:32:01
11. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +05:19:15
23. Marek Dabrowski (POL) Toyota +11:08:43
34. Cyril Despres (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +15:38:07
Final results (Bikes):
1. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 46h 03m 06s
2. Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) Honda +00:16:53
3. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +00:23:14
6. Ruben Faria (PRT) KTM +01:57:50
12. Hélder Rodrigues (PRT) Honda +04:00:00
17. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda +05:54:35
18. Kuba Przygonski (POL) KTM +06:21:12
Final results (Trucks):
1. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz 42h 22m 01s
2. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz +00:13:52
3. Andrey Karginov (RUS) Kamaz +00:51:00
5. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz +02:24:32
Marc Coma: “We had to change our strategy completely and push, and after that the rhythm of the race changed completely. We knew it was a long race, we knew that managing the marathon stages was very important, and I think that at that point we made the difference to our competitors. Both marathon stages went without problems for us, no mistakes, and the pace was high all the time. We tried to come back to the top of the classification. We worked very well together and this is the reason why year after year we are here fighting for the victory. It’s amazing. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this would happen in my lifetime. Of course it’s a great feeling. Now it’s time to enjoy this achievement with family, friends, the team, because we have spent a lot of energy on this!”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “It’s a fantastic feeling. I am really so happy right now to win. To finish in first place, lead from the beginning. We really had a lot of confidence when we came here and Matthieu (Baumel, co-driver) and the team did a great job every day. This Dakar has been 100% perfect for us: the car, the navigation, the team and the tyres have all been perfect. It could not have gone any better. Since last year we’ve been working very hard to prepare for this rally, and I would like to thank all my supporters, especially Red Bull and Ooredoo, for making this possible. This victory means a huge amount to me: from the start my feeling was that we were completely under control, but of course I could not relax for a second as we have seen in the past that anything can happen.”
Ayrat Mardeev: “This victory is dedicated to my father who passed away six months ago. Because of his involvement with Kamaz Master I grew up knowing how special the Dakar was – he would tell me stories when he came home from racing in Africa. He taught me how important it was to work as a team at this race and so much more. He finished on the podium twice, but never got to win the race himself. Now I know he’s looking down on us here and smiling about another Kamaz victory, and the Mardeev name on the winning trophy. Now we have Eduard (Nikolaev), Andrey (Karginov) and myself with a Dakar win under our belts. It’s great to be able to repay the huge faith show in us when we became the new drivers just a few years ago.This time we are just a part of another great result for Kamaz, we have six other team members on the podium and we also have the crew of Dmitry (Sotnikov) in fifth.”