Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah won his fifth Dakar Rally driver’s title and second in a row after the iconic test of endurance finished in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
The 52-year-old won three stages and had more than an hour’s advantage in the overall standings on Sunday over Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, who was also runner-up last year.
Al-Attiyah’s Toyota teammate Lucas Moraes of Brazil finished third. Al-Attiyah took the overall lead after the third stage, having built up a commanding advantage in the first week and deployed a safety-first strategy in the second half of the race.
Loeb gave it all he could as he won a record six successive stages in the second week for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team. But the 48-year-old Frenchman had lost so much time on the first part of the race that it was a lost cause.
The Qatari, who led from stage three as rivals hit trouble, now ranks second in the list of all-time winners in the car category behind eight-time champion Stephane Peterhansel of France.
Peterhansel, the “Mr Dakar” who retired from this year’s edition after crashing his electric hybrid Audi, has also won the motorcycle crown six times.
Benavides takes motorbike title
The motorbike title race had plenty of thrills and spills.
Kevin Benavides – the 2021 champion – edged out Australian Toby Price by 43 seconds with Skyler Howes of the United States finishing third.
Benavides – who celebrated his 34th birthday during the race – trailed two-time champion Price by 12 seconds entering Sunday’s 14th and final stage.
He produced a sterling ride to win the stage, however, and post a time 55 seconds faster than his 35-year-old rival.
Benavides’s win will be a popular one as he selflessly stopped to aid stricken rival Matthias Walkner in Saturday’s penultimate stage.
“It’s incredible to pull off the win at the end of this completely crazy Dakar, and with such a small gap,” Benavides said.
“I’m also the first to win with two different motorbike brands, and that makes me very proud,” he added.
It brought to an end a fascinating battle for supremacy in the motorbike section which had seen Howes lead for six days.
Price could not hide his disappointment despite praising Benavides for doing a “great job”.
“Yeah, hard to take at the moment, but at the end of the day I’m going home in one piece and we got a Dakar trophy,” he said.
“It hurts a little bit.”