Saturday, January 20
Relief, exhaustion and uncontrollable joy were the mix of emotions at the finish line of the 2018 Dakar Rally. After a 9,000-kilometre, two-week trip through South America every competitor reaching the end of the Dakar is a certified legend. As for the members of the Red Bull Desert Wings squad tasting victory, well those guys are above and beyond.
Take Carlos Sainz (ESP) of Team Peugeot Total for example. Already a titan of offroad racing thanks to two World Rally Championship titles plus a previous Dakar win before we even got started this year. ‘El Matador’ maybe in the final straight of his illustrious career but he showed he still has what it takes to pick up the big prizes. As the car category’s frontrunners slipped up one-by-one, Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) kept their cool to take first place and hold it for the entire second week of the Dakar. Sainz and Cruz’s victory represents the third consecutive Dakar win for Team Peugeot Total.
“This is the hardest Dakar I’ve ever done and that includes the races I did in Africa.” – Carlos Sainz
Joining Sainz on the podium were the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews of Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) and Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (GER). Nasser fought back from a tough first week of racing to make sure there was pressure on Sainz all the way to the finish line. This runners-up finish is the Qatari’s 6th overall podium of a Dakar career which includes two victories.
“In the first week when we had so many problems I thought our chance to finish on the podium had gone.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
A late charge up the general classification also saw De Villiers claim another podium finish, but that shouldn’t surprise us too much considering he now has a total of 12 Top 5 finishes at this event.
“This has been a great way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Dakar. The race has been tough and so unpredictable.” – Giniel De Villiers
While we’re on the subject of highly-decorated Dakar contestants we have to mention 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and his co-driver Jean Paul Cottret (FRA). At the Rest Day Stéphane was in the lead and on course for win number 14, but a tough second week saw him finish up in fourth overall. Sainz and Peterhansel’s fellow Peugeot driver Cyril Despres (FRA) played his part in the French manufacturer’s victory as he came to the aid of his team-mates time and time again along with co-driver David Castera (FRA).
“Unfortunately we lost our chance to win in the first week but after that we did what we could to make sure one of our team-mates would win.” – Cyril Despres
It’s also hats off to Kuba Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) who parked their MINI in fifth place overall. The result is Przygonski’s best ever Dakar finish in nine attempts spanning both the bike and car categories.
“For me it was the toughest Dakar I have ever experienced. This is my 9th Dakar so I already knew something about this race, but this year it was something different.” – Kuba Przygonski