Since the Dakar rally moved from Africa to South America back in 2009, no one but Red Bull drivers and riders have stepped on the top step of the podium in the event's three main categories. Last Saturday in little Baradero in Argentina, home to the finish line of the 13th and final special stage of the 2011 Dakar rally, that perfect record was maintained by Nasser Al-Attiyah, Marc Coma and Vladimir Chagin.
Perhaps happiest of the three was Al-Attiyah. The Qatari showed the consistency to back his well-known speed and clinched his maiden Dakar triumph in the Car category aboard his Red Bull Volkswagen Touareg. He becomes the first Arab ever to win the famous enduro.
"Winning the Dakar had been my dream for a long time, and now it has finally come true," celebrated 40-year-old Nasser, who took control of the race during Stage 9 after rival and teammate, 2010 winner Carlos Sainz, got stuck twice on soft sand – arguably Nasser's natural habitat given his Middle Eastern origins.
Sainz found little consolation in winning most stages (six) but ending up third overall: "This was a very hard Dakar for us," said 'El Matador', who fell out of contention for back-to-back victories after losing one hour repairing his right-front suspension on Stage 11.
"Nasser and Timo did a great job and took a deserving win," he added. "I've been in this business for 30 years, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The important thing is to keep enjoying it."
Marc Coma Wins Third Dakar Rally
Also boasting a tired but exuberant smile at the Autodromo de Baradero was KTM rider Marc Coma. The Spaniard not only took his third career Bike win in the world's toughest rally, he also tied the number of victories of the man sometimes referred to as his "best enemy", fellow Red Bull and KTM rider Cyril Despres, who finished second overall.
"We won it when we didn't lose it," Coma insightfully summarized. "That's what the Dakar is all about: trying not to make any mistakes and taking advantage when the competition makes them."
"We made two little mistakes over 15 days, and in the Dakar that's the difference between winning or not," Cyril admitted. "Of course I would have preferred to win, but at least we made it to the finish on the podium for the eighth time."
Finally, another in-house duel, this time at Red Bull Kamaz, saw Vladimir Chagin clinch his seventh career Truck victory, prevailing in the battle with countryman and teammate Firdaus Kabirov. The Russian also brought his total of career stage wins to 63, a record among all categories.
It's a testament to the challenges presented over nearly 6,000 miles by the Dakar that no driver or rider has achieved a three-peat since the event switched to Argentina-Chile.
Dakar Victories for Red Bull Drivers Since 2009
2009 - Giniel de Villiers - Volkswagen
2010 - Carlos Sainz - Volkswagen
2011 - Nasser Al-Attiyah - Volkswagen
2009 - Marc Coma - KTM
2010 - Cyril Despres - KTM
2011 - Marc Coma - KTM
2009 - Firdaus Kabirov - Kamaz
2010 - Vladimir Chagin - Kamaz
2011 - Vladimir Chagin - Kamaz
DAKAR 2011 – FINAL RESULTS:
1) Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Volkswagen)
2) Giniel de Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Volkswagen), +49min 41s
3) Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Volkswagen), +1h 20min 38s
4) Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (BMW), +1h 43min 48s
5) Krzystop Holowczyc/Jean-Marc Fortin (BMW), +4h 11min 21s
1) Marc Coma (KTM)
2) Cyril Despres (KTM), +15min 04s
3) Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha), +1h 40min 20s
4) Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia), +2h 09min 45s
5) Juan Garcia (KTM), +3h 07min 03s
1) Chagin/Savostin/Shaysultanov (Kamaz)
2) Kabirov/Belyaev/Mokeev (Kamaz), +30min 04S
3) Mardeev/Demyanenko/Mardeev (Kamaz), +5h 44min 56s
4) Echter/Ruf/Klein (MAN), +5h 45min 37s
5) Vila/Torrallardona/Van Eerd (Iveco), +7h 16min 01s
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