As expected, Marc Coma of Spain took his third Dakar rally on the weekend.
After stamping his authority on the Rally by winning the 12th Stage to firm up a 16+ minute lead over French rider Cyril Despres, Coma cruised to a fifth on the final day, following Despres to the line and still taking a 15 minute four second win.
That added to his own 2006 and 2009 wins, and gave KTM its 10th consecutive Dakar victory, including seven of this year’s top 10 finishers.
Belgian rider Frans Verhoeven won the final stage for BMW to take 16th overall.
Coma said, "That is a lot of work and sacrifices that have gone into winning the Dakar from myself and the backroom staff. It has cost me a lot … We gave the bike its debut and worked on it for over a year. I have had a really good team at the Dakar, and I haven’t experienced the slightest problem. I am happy and emotional, but that is normal, no? It has been a long journey, a lot of built-up tension. And now I have profited from it."
Despres was philosophical. “When you are second, you would want the race to be longer. But anyway, the feeling of finishing a Dakar is always nice especially here with all the people welcoming you. I am sad I could not do better than this though I have raced 11 Dakars, won 3 and ended 8 times on the podium. One more would have been great. But I just could not do any better. I made some mistakes; they were two small mistakes but they held some heavy consequences."
There was an upset in third overall, as Portugal’s Helder Rodriguez squeezed his Yamaha past Chile’s Francisco Lopez Contardo to steal the final podium spot.
Lopez Contardo had looked to have third solidly in his hands for the second half of the rally, but had a terrible final day with crashes and mechanical issues, his Aprilia finally having to be towed in to the finish.
A notable top 10 finisher was Baja specialist Quinn Cody of the U.S. on the first Honda to finish – he was ninth overall in his first-ever Dakar.
On the car side, Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah clinched his first Dakar win after two years of close calls, while defending champion Carlos Sainz was left with the consolation of taking the 13th and final stage.
Al-Attiyah, something of a Renaissance man in athletics who helped Qatar to a shooting gold medal at the Asian Games last November and has also appeared at the Olympics, moved into the lead last Thursday when Sainz’s hopes were shattered by a broken suspension.
Said the victor, "We drove a good, clean stage. I was just thinking about the finish line. It means a lot to win a Dakar, for me, for my people, for my country, and for my team.”
Here’s the video for the final stage. If you want to catch the video from stage 12 first, then scroll down a tad:
STAGE 13 (final):
STAGE 12 (penultimate):
Such an unfortunate name for a motorcycle racer.