Masuoka, Sainct, Tchaguine repeat as Dakar winners

Mitsubishi driver Hiroshi Masuoka has taken his second victory in the Dakar rally. The Japanese raid specialist covered the 19 days (one rest day, one boat crossing) to cover the 17 stage event in 49 hours, eight minutes and 52 seconds.

Masuoka and co-driver Andreas Schulz never had a penalty during the event. Their main competitor, the Mitsubishi french team of St?phane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret saw a possible Dakar win fade away on stage 16m when Peterhansel hit a rock and lost valuable time, finishing third overall.

The all-French team of Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard finished second to give Mitsubishi the sweep of the top three.

Winners Hiroshi Masuoka and Andreas Schulz celebrate victory.
Photo by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

"I never gave up the idea of winning the Dakar despite my tyre problems," stated the two-time winner Masuoka. "It was a Mitsubishi team race. When I found out what was happening to Peterhansel, I told myself that you always have to keep hope. To win the Dakar once is important, to win it twice is fantastic. The Dakar is the most important sporting event of the year and to win is great for the Japanese."

The final seventeenth stage was a loop around Sharm El Sheikh, the special was 34 km (approximately 20 miles) with the two liaison, the total was 56 km (nearly 34 miles). The route took the competitors to an arrival in the middle of nowhere and then returned them on a sandy stretch into civilization of the ancient Egyptian city.

The theme for the 25th Dakar was 'Don't dream about it, do it!'

In motobikes, Frenchman Richard Sainct, riding Gauloises Racing KTM, won his third Dakar. Sainct held the motobike overall leader since stage nine. Fellow KTM riders Cyril Despres and Fabrizio Meoni were hot on his trail throughout the final stages, but could not make an impression on the French rider. Despres finished second with Meoni in third, giving KTM, too, a sweep of the top three positions.

"Even if it's the third time, it's a very emotional moment," stated Sainct. "These past few days I kept on repeating that it wasn't over until after the finish. When you're in front, it puts pressure on the others and it allows you to see what the others do even if the gaps are little. I stayed focused until the end. It's my way of being. Now everything finishes well and I'm happy."

In the truck category, Russian Vladimir Tchaguine, driving for the Kamaz-Master team also took a repeat Dakar win. Tchaguine and his two Russian co-drivers, Semion Yakoubov and Serguei Savostine, enjoyed the lead they built up when the Gauloises Racing team of Gerardus De Rooy, Tom Colsoul and Arno Slaats withdrew on stage 12. Tchaguine entered the final stage with an hour lead over the final second place finishing team of Andre De Azevedo, Tomas Tomecek and Jaromir Martinec (Tatra).

"Our goal from the start was to win the Dakar," stated the triple Dakar winner Tchaguine. "It certainly is my most difficult victory out of the three because the battle in the truck race has never been so fierce."