|Al-Attiyah came back from losing last year’s race by the slimmest margin to take his first Dakar Rally title [AFP]|
Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar made up for heartbreak a year ago by finally winning his first Dakar title and becoming the first Arab champion of the world’s toughest rally.
Al-Attiyah only had to avoid mistakes on the 13th and last stage, a 181km sprint on gravel from Cordoba to the Baradero race track, to win the Dakar Rally at his sixth attempt.
Spanish rider Marc Coma won the race in Argentina for the third time on his motorbike, and Vladimir Chagin of Russia won a record seventh truck title.
Al-Attiyah’s rally credentials were impressive, with six various championships in classic and cross-country rallying since 2008 alone.
But until this year, the Dakar had been a mainly frustrating experience.
In 2009, Al-Attiyah had to pull out when his engine overheated on the sixth stage while he held an overall lead of more than 20 minutes.
Then last year, he chased Spanish Volkswagen teammate Carlos Sainz all the way to the end, losing by only two minutes in the closest Dakar finish ever.
This year, he overtook Sainz on Monday in the Atacama Desert and held his nerve and the overall lead to the finish line, calling the victory with his German navigator Timo Gottschalk “the biggest moment of my career.”
“It means a lot to win a Dakar, for me, for my people, for my country and for my team,” Al-Attiyah said.
“It is a great victory. It’s hard to explain everything that goes through your head. But it is a very nice feeling. We demonstrated that we have the strongest team in the world.”