Sainz marches to Dakar triumph

Carlos Sainz added the 2010 Dakar title to his two world rally championships on Saturday, thwarting Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah’s desperate, late bid to snatch victory.

The 47-year-old Spaniard, world rally champion in 1990 and 1992, had led the Dakar since the fifth stage and clinched two stages on the 32nd running of the gruelling event.

He finished two minutes, 12 seconds ahead of Al-Attiyah with whom he angrily clashed on Friday’s penultimate stage when he accused the Qatari of unsporting behaviour when he passed, kicking up a blinding, South American dust-storm in the process.

Al-Attiyah had the meagre consolation of taking the race’s 14th and final stage, a 335km special from Santa Rosa to the Argentine capital.

“It’s a very important day for me. I won in Europe, in Spain and today in the Dakar. I am really happy and relieved,” said Sainz.

“We drove very fast, but we were clever too. It was a tough and daily fight against my teammate. I knew it would be like that.

“Today I could not afford any mistakes. Straight ahead, crossing, straight ahead, crossing. We had to master everything and control our emotions.”

Fellow Volkswagen driver Mark Miller, of the US, ended the two-week race, which crossed both Argentina and Chile, 32,51 behind Sainz to claim third place.

It was Volkswagen’s third win in the event following triumphs in 1980 and 2009.

France’s Stephane Peterhansel, a three-time champion and six-time winner in the motorcycle section, was fourth in his BMW, 2:17,21 behind Sainz, while BMW teammate Guerlain Chicherit was fifth.

Al-Attiyah had started the day 2,48 behind Sainz, but the gap always looked insurmountable.

“Second place is a good result for me. I never got this high in the standings,” said the 39-year-old Qatari.

“I really went for it but we knew the stage would be a long straight line.”

Al-Attiyah insisted there were no hard feelings between and Sainz — who the Qatari idolised when he was starting out in the sport — despite their angry fall-out on Friday.

“Congratulations to Carlos Sainz. What matters is that a Volkswagen won. I am happy for Carlos. He did his job. I tried to do mine. Next year, I’ll win. But now I’ll go shake hands with Carlos; he’s part of the team.”

France’s Cyril Despres won his third Dakar motorcycling title while Portuguese rider Ruben Faria claimed the final stage honours.

Despres, who will turn 36 on January 24, finished over five minutes behind his KTM teammate.

Norwegian Pal Ullevalseter finished second overall, over an hour behind Despres, after finishing second on his KTM in the stage, 3,45 behind Faria.

Chilean Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez riding an Aprilia was third overall, less than five minutes behind the runner-up.

“All victories are nice but this one is particularly beautiful,” said Despres.

“It is a victory for hard work, of expertise and of an
incredible team. Of course there is a lot of emotion. We have had three tough years, three years of injuries, training, hard times.”

Despres was also the champion in 2005 and 2007 when the race was still staged in Africa. – AFP

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