Cyril Despres battled his way through the early stages of the 2013 event, in which buggy, bike, quad and lorry drivers took on 8,500 kilometres of harsh terrain in South America, and managed to claim his fifth Dakar victory.
Riding a KTM, the Frenchman gained his second consecutive win in the rally, despite suffering a penalty after he was forced to change engines mid-way through the race.
"Of course every win at the Dakar is special but this one stands out for me because it is the first time I have been able to defend my title. Winning the Dakar two years in a row is rare and nobody has done it since Fabrizio Meoni ten years ago," he said of the win.
The Russian, whose career began as a mechanic, was joined by teammates Ayrat Mardeev in second place and Andrey Karginov in third.
Commenting on the win, Nikolaev claimed the full weight of the extraordinary feat has yet to sink in.
"All I have been concentrated on since we arrived in South America was fighting minute by minute over every kilometre I drove in our truck. To come out of that after such an intense fifteen days with the victory is something that I simply can't put into words. It's simply incredible and I'm on cloud nine right now," he said.
Unfortunately, a valiant effort in this year's Dakar Rally proved fruitless for the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team, who were forced to bow out of the competition early.
The early stages saw the buggy team gain and hold a triumphant lead over their competitors. Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz wasted no time in making his mark on this year's rally, hitting the fastest time on the 13km opening stage in Pisco and overcoming navigational issues to beat the pack and claim victory on day two. However, teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah - winner of the 2011 rally - was not content to let Sainz have all the glory - securing his two consecutive stage wins on days three and four.
Technical troubles plagued the team throughout Dakar 2013, forcing two-time World Rally Championship winner Sainz to drop out on day six. He was shortly followed by teammate Al-Attiyah, who bowed out of the competition on day nine due to a broken water pump.
However, the duo were not cowed by the experience and vowed to return for the 2014 event with their sights set on victory.
About Cyril Despres
Born to parents who ran restaurants in his native France, Cyril looked destined to follow in the family tradition, or at least not deviate from it quite so much. However, the young wannabe took matters into his own hands when, with an entrepreneurial aptitude to make his parents proud, he got the train to Paris and bought his first bike.
In 1998, Cyril Despres started riding Enduro and in the very same year, he became the French Enduro Champion. Despite his success, money was still tight and with his greater ambition came greater expense. In 2000, in order to race in his first Dakar rally, Cyril sold 6,000 bottles of wine to raise the necessary money. The gamble paid off when he finished 16th, announcing his arrival on the extreme Enduro scene. With greater success came better races and better bikes, and in 2001 Cyril gained his first Dakar stage win.
About Eduard Nikolaev
The son of Russian racing superstar Valentin Nikolaev, Eduard’s route to racing trucks came via his early karting career, where he impressed KAMAZ team leader Semen Yakubov enough to earn him a place on the team as a mechanic for Dakar legend Vladimir Chagin. When KAMAZ fielded a younger team for 2011, Eduard got the call up and helped to bring home a KAMAZ 1-2-3 in the in the truck category.
About Giniel de Villiers
Since 2003, Giniel de Villiers has competed in the Dakar on both two and four wheels. The four-time South African Touring Car champion won the event in 2009 while driving for the Volkswagen team, before switching to Toyota for last year’s Dakar.
About the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team
Born in Qatar in 1970, Nasser al-Attiyah has enjoyed a spectacular sporting career. Not many athletes enjoy international success in more than one discipline, but Nasser has done just that. On top of his achievements as a rally driver, the Qatari has also represented his country at three Olympic Games in Skeet Shooting – taking a bronze medal at London 2012.
Co-driver Lucas Cruz
Lucas Cruz is a graduate of the Volkswagen team that dominated the first editions of the Dakar Rally in South America. The Catalonian hails from Barcelona and has been taking on the role of co-pilot since he turned 20-years-old. For the past decade Lucas has been focusing on cross-country rallies and took part in his first Dakar Rally in 2006.
Carlos Sainz has made more World Rally Championship starts than any other driver. ‘El Matador’ was twice crowned WRC World Champion, taking the title for Toyota in 1990 and 1992, and was runner-up a further four times. He has notched up some spectacular podiums since switching to cross-country rally driving, including winning the 2010 Dakar Rally and the 2009 Silk Way event in Russia.
Co-driver Timo Gottschalk
Cars and motorsport have always been part of Timo’s life. During his military service he was a driver, later in life he also worked as a mechanic before earning a reputation as one of the best co-drivers within the sport of rally. Timo’s first taste of the Dakar Rally came in 2007 when he navigated on behalf of Dieter Depping. After a few races with Dieter this co-driver was then recruited by Nasser Al-Attiyah.