La vie en... blue" The second edition of the Dakar in Latin America finished with a podium and award ceremony where the drivers and teams of 88 bikes, 14 quads, 57 cars and 28 trucks were celebrated. Blue was the color of the day with ...
La vie en... blue"
The second edition of the Dakar in Latin America finished with a podium and award ceremony where the drivers and teams of 88 bikes, 14 quads, 57 cars and 28 trucks were celebrated. Blue was the color of the day with Cyril Despres winning his third Dakar whilst Argentine rider Marcos Patronelli won in the quad category. In the car category, Carlos Sainz won the rally raid after a tough and close battle with Nasser Al Attiyah. On the truck side, the road was much clearer for Vladimir Chagin, who lined up the records in this year's edition: he equated the record number of Dakar victories of Karel Loprais with a sixth victory in the truck category.
The wheel is turning... for Despres
He had been waiting for it for three years. The tears of joy rolling down the cheeks of Cyril Despres on the finish line of the last special stage are the symbol of the long journey he had to take. Three long years of disappointment, frustration and -- above all -- training have gone by since his last title on the banks of Lake Rose in Dakar. One year ago, the French rider -- in addition to facing significant tire problems -- found someone stronger than him on his way, a man named Marc Coma. But the tide turned in the 32nd edition. Motivated and prepared like never before, and surrounded by a team devoted to his cause like e.g. his support rider Ruben Faria, Despres mastered his Dakar end to end, riding his KTM 690 -- although restrained -- like no other. No flashy coup in his riding but Despres was as steady as any three-time Dakar winner ought to be. This is the only way to win a Dakar, by being steady. With three stage victories on top of the final triumph, Cyril Despres joins his former teammate, the late Richard Sainct, in the ranking of those who have won the Dakar three times after his two previous victories in 2005 and 2007.
Despres' designated contender, Marc Coma, put on a good show until stage 3, the stage raced in the furnace of the Fiambala sand dunes. An overheating engine then made him lose more than 20 minutes on the French rider. Two stages later, a tire problem pushed him even further back in the standings as the Catalan lost another half-hour. Adding to it a 6-hour penalty for "illegal assistance", the man with two Dakar victories finished the rally raid in 15th position 6h34' behind the winner and had to console himself with the biggest number of special stages won in the Dakar, i.e. 5 stage victories.
With Coma out of the way, it is finally another rider with a 690cc KTM who finishes second behind Despres, a man called Pal-Anders Ullevalseter. The goal of the Norwegian was to be in the Top 3. He put the bar even higher proving as well that experience and steadiness do pay off. Cherry on the cake, the quiet Pal also won his first special stage after 8 participations in the Dakar. Still he finishes his rally raid 1h02' behind the winner. In his three previous participations, Francisco Lopez had never managed to end the raid. Fourth time lucky for the Chilean... ranking third in the general standings and winner of three special stages, "Chaleco" also wins the raid in the 450cc category with his Aprilia bike, the bike of a manufacturer that was present for the first time on the Dakar. He ends the raid just in front of Portuguese rider Helder Rodriguez (Yamaha), fourth in the general standings.
The 2010 Dakar could also have been great for David Casteu. In the lead of an innovative and ambitious project, the French rider had enrolled in the rally raid riding a 450cc Sherco. On day one, he did call the shots. A brilliant second of the raid and a credible contender for final victory on the morning of stage 5, the Nice resident saw his dreams go up in flames after a very rough fall on the road to Antofagasta.
By winning the bike raid amongst those riders enrolled for the first time in the Dakar, Slovak rider Stefan Svitko, who finished 13th of the general standings riding a KTM is the perfect example of the rise to the top of Eastern countries on the Dakar, that is also proven by a very nice eighth place for Polish rider Przygonski. Finally, congratulations to the little -- but tough -- Annie Seel who is the Best Woman in the Dakar and finishes 45th in the standings.
Brothers in ... ride
After the emotion created by Marcos Patronelli when he finished second right behind Josef Machacek in 2009, the Argentinean supporters expected a lot from their new idol. Marcos started his second Dakar with the firm intention of defending his burgeoning fame and bearing a heavy responsibility in a country that has always been fascinated by motorsport. Supported by his older brother and despite a prestigious quad line-up with two former winners -- Machacek and Gonzalez -- Marcos Patronelli brilliantly faced the challenge by holding the first place in the general standings from the start to the finish of the raid with one significant exception on day 2 where Spanish rider Gonzalez Corominas "Pedrega" squeezed in to take the lead briefly. Winning four of the 14 stages along the way, while his brother Alejandro won 2 stages as well, Marcos Patronelli resisted to everything to finish first and become the first Argentine winner of the Dakar. Alejandro, solid second since stage 7, contributed to the total and never-seen-before success of a family and a country, leaving just a few stage victories to other contenders like Hubert Deltrieu, Sebastian Halpern - twice, Christophe Declerck -- three times and finally Rafal Sonik who won the last special stage.
The Sainz touch
Four years after his arrival in the world of rally raid, Carlos Sainz managed to tame the Dakar over time. The tenacious Spaniard gathered all his talent and was able to make the best use of his Race Touareg to stand out. He also showed the cold-bloodedness he had been missing sometimes in the past -- especially in the 2009 edition where he went off track in the last days of the raid and lost all chances of victory. This year, it is in a brutal and final arm-wrestling struggle with Nasser Al Attiyah that the "Matador" came out victorious. Twice since the arrival of the Qatari in the Volkswagen team, i.e. in the Rally dos Sertoes and in the Silk Way Rally, Sainz had won because of the fatal errors of his rival. All he needed to do was confirm his total mastery on the Dakar. He did it even without the advantage of any mistake by Al Attiyah, who was mind-bogglingly combative until the last kilometer of the race.
As of stage 5, where he took command of the rally raid, Carlos Sainz saw his lead over the "wonderfully crazy driver" melt like snow as Al-Attiyah was looking for any opportunity to eat up minutes and seconds. At the end of the last special stage of the rally raid, the gap between both drivers was only 2'12''. Sainz got the final victory of the most disputed raid in the history of the Dakar. On a more general note, the 2010 rally was marked by the apogee of Volkswagen. Apart from the spectacular duel offered by Sainz and Al Attiyah, the German manufacturer also put a third Race Touareg in third place in the general standings with Mark Miller. The Dakar had not seen a complete podium going to one team only since the Mitsubishi foray in 2003 and the winning quartet Masuoka-Fontenay-Peterhansel-Sousa.
If the battle for victory quickly boiled down to a match between Volkswagen drivers, the performance of the BMW X-3 is a great omen for future muscle-flexing on track in the following editions of the Dakar. The hours lost by Stephane Peterhansel on stage 5 did not prevent the BMW driver from asserting his presence afterwards: winner of four stages this year, the newcomer in the X-Raid team does end up in fourth position in the general standings. The team can also rejoice at the overall performance of Guerlain Chicherit, who finished fifth in the standings with one stage victory in his track record. In terms of stage victories by the way, the X3 did better than Volkswagen: adding the stage won by Nani Roma before he withdrew, the BMW drivers actually nailed 6 special stages against 7 for the "blue" team. In terms of future additional VW contenders, we might even consider adding the JMB Stradale team to the list; indeed, its five upgraded Mitsubishi Lancer all finished the raid with three of them in the Top 10. Carlos Sousa, who teamed up with Mathieu Baumel, Chicherit's former navigator, ended up in sixth place behind the man from the mountains.
A little further down the standings, a title was also up for grabs for vehicles from the Production category. Japanese driver Jun Mitsuhashi, who had already distinguished himself in 2007, did even better this year in Argentina and Chile. His Toyota ended 17th in the general standings more than 17 hours behind Carlos Sainz but with close to a 7-hour lead on his prime contender Xavier Foj.
Amongst first-time participants, the Basso family -- brother and father -- was chosen as the most deserving team and finished 37th of the general standings in Buenos Aires. On the side of solo drivers, Tim Coronel and his McRae buggy won the category ahead of Argentine driver Jorge Murano.
Kamaz... end to end
Impossible to know if Vladimir Chagin is chasing records but his steadiness and his mastery brought the Russian driver to the top of the statistical top in this Dakar. Winner of 9 of the 14 stages of this year's edition, he now has 56 stage victories in his track record i.e. the absolute record in the number of stage victories and one stage victory more than the already great number of winnings by Stephane Peterhansel. The 'Tsar' Chagin knocked the race out at stage 1 already to take command of the general standings right away and never leave it. In San Carlos de Bolivar, at the arrival of the last special stage, he gave a ninth absolute victory to the brand with the blue horse -- another record -- as Chagin now equates Karel Loprais and his six general standings victories in the Dakar. The domination of the Tatarstan squad was total with an additional 4 stage victories for Kabirov and one more -- in the last special stage -- for Mardeev. The total domination of the blue trucks could not be opposed by other contenders in the raid. Ales Loprais, driving a Tatra, withdrew after a crash on stage 2 already; he was the declared top contender for the Russian. After starting pretty well, Brazil's Andre de Azevedo lost all possibilities to rival on day 5 already after a major mechanical problem. The road was therefore clear for Kamaz that ended on a double victory with the second place in the standings going to title holder Firdaus Kabirov. The stage battles allowed us to catch a glimpse of a French driver, Joseph Adua, on a stage podium. Marcel Van Vliet, driving a Ginaf truck, got a very nice third place in the general standings nevertheless more than 10 hours behind Chagin whilst the persevering Sugawara finished seventh. Two other long-time Dakar participants, Catalan drivers Oliveras and Juvanteny, both end up in the Top 10.