As the 2010 Dakar Rally came to an end in Argentina yesterday, only the strongest were left standing. It’s the familiar headline-grabbers who will step onto the podium today, but everyone completing the gruelling race has given their all.
For riders such as Philip Noone of Team Ireland, finishing represents not just a two-week, 14-stage slog in the height of the South American summer but a lifetime’s dream fulfilled. When the dust finally settles in Chile and Argentina, the competitors who tackled the 2010 Dakar will still be questioning their sanity for taking part in the first place.
In the cars, it was a perfect one-two-three finish for the Red Bull Volkswagen team as the Race Touaregs and their crews claimed the top prize for the second year running. This year it wasn’t Giniel de Villiers who brought home the bacon for the German manufacturers – the South African claimed seventh – but Carlos Sainz instead.
'A very, very important day for me. I am really happy and relieved.' –Carlos Sainz
El Matador managed to shelve the disappointment of crashing out last year to hold off the challenge of his teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah to win by the narrowest of margins. The race for top spot was kept alive right to the end by these two great competitors, and in the end it was only 2min 21sec which separated them after over 47 hours of racing.
In the end, with age on the side of Nasser, you guessed that Carlos might have wanted this victory just a little more than the man from Qatar.
“A very, very important day for me, I am really happy and relieved,” said Sainz. “I would first like to thank my co-pilot Lucas Cruz for his wonderful work, and the team, as well as all of those who trusted me for so long.”
After crossing the line, the Spaniard was quick to thank Nasser for pushing him so hard and bringing the best out of him.
“It was a tough and daily fight against my teammate. I knew it would be like that. I fought so hard. Today was a very special stage; I could not afford any mistakes. Straight ahead, crossing, straight ahead, crossing… We had to master everything and control our emotions. But it has been like this for a week!”
Over in the bikes, the formality of Cyril Despres’ win was finally rubber-stamped with the completion of stage 14. This is Cyril’s third win in the Dakar, but he is savoring his most recent victory more than the previous two. That must be what keeps the Frenchman on top of his game.
'We can only be moved by this third victory.' –Cyril Despres
“All victories are nice, but this one is particularly beautiful,” he commented. “It’s the victory of hard work, of expertise and of an incredible team. There are nine of us in the team and not one of us ever let go. We all wanted to win – we all wanted to fight hard, and we did win. It’s just fantastic.”
After growing accustomed to success, Cyril admitted it has been hard to take being beaten in the last few Dakars.
“We have had three tough years, three years of injuries, training… hard times. We can only be moved by this third victory. I am still human – I know I have been riding this bike for 15 days and I am exhausted, but the little strength I had left just went in tears. It was a tough Dakar, a beautiful Dakar and I am so glad I won.”
Another win that was on the cards for a while was also confirmed yesterday in the truck class as Vladimir Chagin in his Red Bull Kamaz claimed his sixth Dakar win. ‘The Tsar’, as he is affectionately known in the bivouac, was in total control of the race from day one, and so were his team. Chagin may have broken a few personal records along the way, but Team Kamaz also sealed a new record by winning every stage of the truck class this year.
“It’s our team’s ninth victory. There are not many teams with such a track record. This is a result of several years of work,” said Chagin. “Last year was good with Firdaus [Kabirov]’s victory – this year is an even bigger success. A fabulous result for Kamaz. Our team are really strong. I think they wanted the victory more than the other teams.”
As well as the Russians, the local fans had plenty to cheer, with Argentinean Marcos Patronelli winning the quad class. It has been a real family affair in this category this year, with Marcos’s older brother Alejandro taking second spot. Marcos could hardly contain himself as he crossed the finish line first in his homeland.
“I would never have imagined this, not even in my wildest dreams. It’s incredible that two brothers finish first and second in the same raid!” said the delighted Marcos. “This Dakar was very hard. I cannot say more than that, except that I must thank my team. We are a family pushing hard, doing what it takes. I am also happy for my brother: it’s his first Dakar and he finishes second! Who wouldn’t be proud?”
For all the final standings, head to www.dakar.com.