Nani Roma took his first victory in a car, exactly a decade after winning on a motorcycle.
Marc Coma, the author of a flawless performance from the beginning of the 2014 Dakar, took his fourth overall victory at the end of a final stage that went to Cyril Despres. Teammate Jordi Viladoms achieved his best result ever with second place overall, 1 h 52′27″ back, while Despres finished his first Dakar on a Yamaha just outside the podium, behind teammate Olivier Pain, who also got his best result at the Dakar.
In the car category, Peterhansel attacked in stage 12 and Giniel de Villiers won the final stage but, "as agreed", Nani Roma took his first victory in a car, exactly a decade after winning on a motorcycle, and joined Hubert Auriol and Stéphane Peterhansel in the pantheon of those who have won the Dakar on a motorcycle and in a car after beating precisely Peter and Nasser Al-Attiyah. A 100% Mini podium.
Last year, leader Cyril Despres and his lieutenant Ruben Faria signed an amazing one-two for the KTM squad. It was with the same team spirit that Marc Coma grabbed his fourth overall win, escorted on the podium by his faithful lieutenant Jordi Viladoms, who had already stood at his side when he won in 2006 in 2009. Coma's strategy, based on building an insurmountable lead over his rivals in one single special, has changed little since his last victory in 2011.
The first two riders to drop out were those who stood next to Despres on last year's podium, Ruben Faria and "Chaleco" López, who were knocked out by falls. Later on, during stage 5, world champion Paolo Gonçalves saw both his Honda and his hopes go up in flames. At the time, a breath of fresh air from the Sherco camp compensated for all these disappointments. After alternating with teammate Juan Pedrero in the top places of the stages, Alain Duclos looked more and more like a serious podium contender, at least until the rest day.
However, his Sherco's engine gave in during stage 9 after a first scare two days earlier. Marc Coma was able to spend the last few days riding at his own pace and keeping an eye on distant pursuer Joan Barreda. However, after climbing back to within half an hour of Coma due to the leader being handed down a penalty for an engine change, Barreda blew it exactly when it looked like he had finally learned to be consistent. The animator of this year's edition and winner of four stages crumbled on the dunes of Copiapó the day before the finish, conceding over two hours and slipping to seventh overall.
Meanwhile, Cyril Despres continued Operation Comeback, gaining a few places in the classification for his troubles. The five-time winner, 12th at the end of stage 5 and 11th on the rest day, inched closer and closer to the top until he finished at the gates of the podium, just behind teammate Olivier Pain. Yamaha's one-two in the third and fourth places is followed by an honourable Honda contingent, with Hélder Rodrigues in fifth, Joan Barreda in seventh and Daniel Gouet in eighth.
Laia Sanz put the cherry on the Catalan take with a decent sixteenth place, one of the best results achieved by a female rider at the Dakar, after Christine Martin's tenth place in 1981, Nicole Maitrot's fourteenth in 1982 and Véronique Anquetil's fifteenth in 1984.
A "different" edition in the car category
The 36th edition of the biggest rally raid in the world started with a surprise, as Portugal's Carlos Sousa grabbed his sixth Dakar win and the first for Chinese manufacturer Haval. The overall winner's name was anybody's guess until the thirteenth and final special.
The team orders controversy and the group finish of the leading Minis in the last stage, handing the overall win to Nani Roma on a platter, put an asterisk next to the first car victory of the 41-year-old Catalan, who had nevertheless produced a masterful performance during ten stages before cracking under the pressure of a Stéphane Peterhansel firing on all cylinders the last few days.
"Monsieur Dakar", driving as consistently as ever but with a fire in his belly rarely seen until now, wrote a new chapter in his legend during the 2014 edition, one he finished in second place, 5′38″ down, but with an unsurpassed total of four stage wins that propelled him to the top of the all-time record, with 65 victories. Nasser Al-Attiyah, isolated in third place, took his third Dakar podium, but he will long regret failing to find all the waypoints in stage 10. The resulting penalty may have cost him his second overall win, as he finished 56′52″ behind the champion. Finally, South African Giniel de Villiers was the only driver to take the fight to the Mini armada all the way to Valparaíso, winning the last stage and consolidating his fourth place overall, which is also his seventh top 5 finish in ten participations!
Ignacio Casale takes the quad race! The evening after stage 2, the defending champion summed up the ferocious battle raging in the quad race. "The Dakar's just begun", said Marcos Patronelli after winning the stage and moving into the overall lead. Ignacio Casale had seized the lead in both classifications at the end of the preceding stage, from Rosario to San Luis. The Argentinean star dropped out the next day during the hottest stage in Dakar history, probably as a result of his high-intensity clash with the Chilean.
The quad race is getting more and more competitive, as proven by the fact that Casale still had to see off the repeated onslaught of Rafał Sonik and Sergio Lafuente. The Pole slowly run out of steam when faced with the leader's robust defence, while the Uruguayan had to go home after his engine broke down during stage 11. Casale only wrapped up his Chilean-style win towards the end of a rally that revealed Sebastian Husseini's fighting spirit. The Dutchman was rewarded with the bottom step of the podium. Qatari Mohammed Abu-Issa took fourth place, with promising rookie Víctor Gallegos rounding off the top 5. Franco-Italian Camelia Liparoti played her hand well again, finishing 13th out of 15 finishers and 40 starters.