After a gruelling 9,000km loop through Argentina and Chile the curtain has come down on the 2011 Dakar Rally.
The final stage running between Cordoba and Buenos Aires was planned to be a more relaxed route than previous days, but this being the Dakar yet more controversy was on display.
Chilean Chaleco Lopez seemed set to take third place in the bike class when he started the day with a 43 minute advantage over fourth placed Helder Rodrigues. Fate dealt Chaleco a cruel blow however just 22km from the end of the special stage when the rear shock absorber on his Aprilia failed him.
By the time Chaleco finished the stage he had conceded over an hour to Helder meaning that it is the Portuguese Yahama rider who occupies the last spot on the podium.
Ahead of Helder things went to plan for Marc Coma who rode a steady stage to win his third Dakar title and condemn Cyril Despres to a second place finish.
In the car class Nasser Al-Attiyah cried tears of joy as he finally got his hands on a Dakar title. The Fresh Prince of the Dakar dedicated his victory to the people of his native Qatar.
There was more good news for Nasser’s Volkswagen team as for the second year running the car class podium is all blue. 2009 champ Giniel De Villiers finished second while last year’s winner Carlos Sainz finishes third.
There was a similar story of domination in the truck class with the all-conquering Team Kamaz finishing up with a one-two-three-four. Vladimir Chagin scoops his seventh Dakar title with his lieutenant Firdaus Kabirov in the runners-up spot. The third Kamaz driver on the podium is Dakar debutant Eduard Nikolaev while fourth place in the truck class also belongs to the Russians after Ilgizar Mardeev’s strong peformance.
There was plenty for the home crowd to cheer at the end of the final stage in Santiago de Baradero in the quad class. Alejandro Patronelli took top billing ahead of fellow Argentinian Sebastian Halpern. There were scenes of jubilation as Alejandro was joined in celebrating his win by his baby brother and last year’s winner Marcos Patronelli.
Spotlight on Red Bull riders
After a faultless drive from start to finish, Nasser Al-Attiyah is celebrating his first Dakar victory. Having charmed the crowds to establish himself a firm favourite in Argentina and Chile, the Fresh Prince of the Dakar now has his hands on the silverware he has been craving for so long.
“We have done it! It means so much to me to win the Dakar, for me, for my people, for my country and for my team.
“It is a great victory. It's hard to explain everything that goes through your head. But it is a very nice feeling.
“It is also the biggest moment in my career. I think that now people will finally know where Qatar is located.”
Dakar’s Just Deserts
After a cruel 10 hour time penalty cut through the hopes of Marc Coma winning the bike class last year, the Catalan rider made no mistake this time out.
During every stage ,a completely focused Marc rode his KTM 450cc with only victory on his mind.
"Staying focused was essential so all I did was focus on my riding. It was the only way to win. What made it really tough was the fact I could not let my guard down, not even for a second.
“When a tough stage ended, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tension over the last few days.
“I have to pay tribute to all the people in my team, who supported me. We had ambitious goals and to reach them we had to have the best, people made for the Dakar and willing to all work towards the same goal.”
Word from the Waypoint
“I am not disappointed instead I’m just happy because we have three Kamaz trucks in the first three positions in the standings.
Firdaus Kabirov, second in the truck class behind team-mate Vladimir Chagin, epitomizes the winning spirit behind Team Kamaz.
Today’s Dakar Lucky Number: 120
After working out the route of each stage of the Dakar on his way to helping Nasser Al-Attiyah to victory co-driver Timo Gottschalk got through a lot of day-glow marker pens. Timo reckons that while preparing his road books in the 2011 Dakar Rally he scribbled the equivalent of 120 metres in felt-tip pen.
- Head to a section of redbull.com dedicated entirely to the 2011 Dakar
- Check the live GPS positions of the Dakar pilots
- Listen to the latest bivouac chat podcast here