302 PETERHANSEL Stephane (fra) COTTRET Jean Paul (fra) PEUGEOT ambiance victory during the Dakar 2016 Argentina, Bolivia, Etape 13 / Stage 13, Villa Carlos Paz – Rosario, Finish – Podium from January 16, 2016 – Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
The 38th edition of the Dakar ended in Rosario today with Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot) wrapping up his sixth triumph in the car category and Toby Price, racing in the motorcycle category, stamping his name on the list of winners for the first time. Marcos Patronelli grabbed another victory in the quad race, while Gerard de Rooy made it two in the truck category. Today’s stage was marked by Sébastien Loeb’s fourth victory and Pablo Quintanilla’s triumph in the motorcycle race.
Words cannot do justice to the latest exploit of Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot). Now a six-time winner of the car category, Mister Dakar brought balance to his trophy room by claiming as many victories in a car as he did on a motorcycle. “Peter”, with 12 victories under his belt, consolidates his iron grip on the race.
His sixth win was built on a single stage, but what a stage it was! By his own admission, the man from Vesoul “went crazy” on the dunes of Fiambalá, as he sometimes did on a motorcycle, and turned on the afterburners. Stage 10 saw the Peugeot driver smash the opposition, throwing caution to the wind and capitalising on the misadventures of his direct rivals. It was an out-of-this-world performance.
However, it was no walk in the park for the Peugeot driver. Master strategist Peterhansel bided his time when his famous new teammate, Sébastien Loeb, took the race by storm in the first week. Some pressure here, some psychological warfare there and a minimal amount of mistakes made the difference between the Peugeot drivers and separated him from other rivals. Stéphane Peterhansel was also the only driver of the Lion brand who did not run into trouble, a clear sign that restored Peugeot to its former glory 26 years after Ari Vatanen won at the wheel of a 405.
No need to overlook Nasser Al-Attiyah’s first-class performance at the wheel of a Mini, though. Never far from the Peugeots, who knows what the Qatari could have done had he not scuttled his own chances with a barrel roll at the entrance to the dune fields of Fiambalá? Finally, Giniel de Villiers finished third and featured in the top 3 for the fourth consecutive time. The rock-solid South African earned Toyota another podium, quite an exploit in view of the star-studded field.
Sébastien Loeb lit the fireworks in the 38th edition, winning four stages, spectacularly veering off the course, being plagued by mechanicals… The whole rally raid package. The latter two must have been bitter lessons for the nine-time world rally champion, but every journey starts with a single step and Loeb is a fast learner…
Toby Price is another fast learner. Very fast. KTM’s Australian leader, third in his debut last year, rode smartly to grab a clear win. Price, a good navigator impervious to pressure, which came especially from the Honda camp, wasted precious little time wandering around. If KTM wants someone to fill Marc Coma’s boots, the Austrian maker need look no further: the heir is here! 29-year-old Toby Price, the first Aussie to win the race, looks every bit the new Dakar boss in a category that is undergoing a major renewal.
Behind him, Štefan Svitko (KTM) continues to make progress. Ninth in 2014 and fifth last year, he achieved his goal for this year’s edition by finishing on the podium for the first time. Pablo Quintanilla took the bottom step. The Chilean may not have been as consistent as the two riders in front of him, but he still managed to produce an excellent performance.
As for the rookies, fourth-placed Kevin Benavides stormed onto the Dakar scene, just like Frenchmen Adrien Van Beveren (sixth) and Antoine Méo (seventh). Van Beveren, a two-time winner of the Enduropale du Touquet, got stronger as the race went by and steadily climbed up the general classification, but Meó was surely the unluckiest rider in the Dakar. Sitting third overall with two days to go and two stage wins in the bag, Méo sacrificed his podium spot in a heartbeat in order to support Toby Price. However, a heavy fall in the penultimate stage turned the end of the Dakar into a nightmare for the five-time world enduro champion. Not the reward he deserved for the last fortnight…
The Patronelli Bros. executed a perfect comeback to the quad category. Marcos, now a three-time winner, and runner-up Alejandro had the race tied up shortly before the halfway point. They defeated a surprising Brian Baragwanath, who finished his second participation on the podium. He will be worth keeping an eye on in 2017.
Finally, Gerard de Rooy took his second win in the truck category without breaking a sweat. Iveco’s Dutchman prevailed over 2015 champion Ayrat Mardeev and Federico Villagra, an Argentinian who tried his hand at the truck category after two editions of the Dakar in a car.
All in all, 84 motorcycles, 23 quads, 67 cars and 44 trucks completed the 9,500 km long race, out of 358 competitors on the start line of the 38th edition —a finish rate of more than 60%.