Spain's Carlos Sainz held off the challenge of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah to claim a first ever Dakar Rally title Saturday.
Although Sainz had to be satisfied with second place behind Al-Attiyah in the 14th and final stage from Santa Rosa to Buenos Aries, he was only 36 seconds adrift of his Qatari rival and German partner Timo Gottschalk.
The narrow time difference ensured Sainz finished 2 minutes 12 seconds ahead of Al-Attiyah with an overall winning time of 47 hours 10 minutes exactly for the 9,025-kilometre long race through Chile and Argentina.
“I am so overjoyed. This was a hugely difficult rally,” said the 47-year-old two-time world rally champion of the second Dakar Rally to be held in South America. “I had to concentrate right to the very end. We didn't have any big problems and I didn't make any driving errors so I deserved the victory.”
Sainz added that winning a Dakar Rally was a wish of his when he decided to give up competing in the world rally championships.
“Now that wish has been fulfilled,” he said. The victory was German carmaker Volkswagen's second Dakar victory in succession and third in total with VW also completing the podium placings through last year's runner-up American Mark Miller, who finished 32:51 minutes adrift of Sainz and partner Lucas Cruz.
“Volkswagen have achieved something historic with this third win,” said VW motorsport director Kris Nissen.
France's Cyril Despres, who had led from the third day, claimed the motorcycle crown on a KTM, winning in a total time of 51:10:37 hours to finish 1:02:52 hours clear of Norway's Pal Anders Ullevalseter, also on a KTM. It was a third title for the 35-year-old Despres after successes in 2005 and 2007.