Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah said the ‘incredible Dakar went without a hitch’ after winning the prestigious Rally for a fourth time as the gruelling two-week trek through the Saudi Arabian desert came to a climax yesterday. Al-Attiyah, already champion in 2011, 2015 and 2019, took the overall honours by almost half an hour from France’s nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb. British motorbike rider Sam Sunderland claimed his second Dakar Rally crown earlier in the day.
The final stage was marred by tragedy as 20-year-old French mechanic Quentin Lavallee was killed in a car accident. Al-Attiyah — also a bronze medallist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics — led from start to finish to secure his first win in Saudi Arabia after two runners-up spots.
“It was an incredible Dakar for us,” said the 51-year-old Toyota driver. “We hadn’t won since 2019. There were three solid teams capable of winning. Matthieu (Baumel his French co-driver) and I, the team, we all did a good job to win. We had finished second every time since we came to Saudi Arabia two years ago, now we’re really happy to achieve our goal. The whole race went without a hitch.”
“Toyota Gazoo Racing did a fantastic job in the span of a year by building this new car. We were on high alert, but now we know that we have an amazing car and we will do our best for the World Championship.
“We opened up a gap on the first day and have since managed our lead. We’re really happy, and I reckon we’ll start thinking of the next Dakar in a week or ten days. We’re fortunate to get to race the Dakar in Saudi Arabia, and I would like to thank the government for this opportunity to discover such breathtaking landscapes,” the Qatari added.
The final stage of the car race was won by South Africa’s Henk Lategan with the overall Dakar recordholder Stephane Peterhansel second in his electric hybrid Audi. The German manufacturer had said prior to the race they had no aspirations of winning the overall title in what was its first entry with a hybrid model but they did secure several stage wins.
Sunderland, who in 2017 became the first British champion in either car or bike category, finished 3min 27sec ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla and Austrian Matthias Walkner to take the chequered flag in Jeddah.
Sunderland, 32, dominated the first week but had to battle for the overall lead over the final days and surrendered it several times before finally coming out on top. He said it had not been all plain sailing on the final stage which he entered with a healthy lead.
“I honestly can’t be happier,” said Sunderland. This last stage was so difficult and so much stress... A lot of navigation, a lot of tricky notes, a few times a bit confusing and not sure I was going the right way. Phew. Honestly, my head can explode. The last ten minutes, I was not sure whether I’d won, now they’ve told me and, wow, dream come true. I had a pretty rough season, but when you win the Dakar, it’s all worth it. So nice.”
For Quintanilla it was handsome reward having left Husqvarna to replace 2021 champion Kevin Benavides at Honda. The 35-year-old said it had been “the most stressful” Dakar for him yet, though, his spirits had been boosted throughout by his compatriots writing to him.
Final and Stage 12 results
1. Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota) 1h35m19s
2. Stephane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (Audi) +49s
3. Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century) +1m51s
4. Sebastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +2m20s
5. Vaidotas Zala/Paulo Fiúza (X-raid Mini) +3m25s
6. Orlando Terranova/Dani Oliveras Carreras (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +3m47s
7. Marcelo Tiglia Gastaldi/Cadu Sachs (Century) +4m16s
8. Bernhard ten Brinke/Sébastien Delaunay (Overdrive Toyota) +4m27s
9. Khalid al-Qassimi/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +5m03s
10. Sebastian Halpern/Bernardo Graue (X-raid Mini) +5m19s
Overall standings after SS12
1. Nasser al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota) 38h33m03s
2. Loeb/Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +27m46s
3. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr (Overdrive Toyota) +1h01m13s
4. Terranova/Oliveras Carreras (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +1h27m23s
5. Giniel De Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota) +1h41m48s
6. Kuba Przygónski/Timo Gottschalk (X-raid Mini) +1h53m06s
7. Mathieu Serradori/Loic Minaudier (SRT Racing Century) +2h32m05s
8. Halpern/Graue (X-raid Mini) +2h38m26s
9. Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist (Audi) +2h42m11s
10. ?ala/Fiúza (X-raid Mini) +3h31m55s
Nasser al-Attiyah celebrates with Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation President Abdulrahman Abdulatif al-Mannai in Jeddah yesterday