Cyril Despres Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Relive the blood, sweat and gears of the 2012 Dakar Rally with a quick word from the major players at the desert classic. Feel the highs and lows of the world’s toughest test of endurance racing as we go under the hood of the Dakar Rally.

“All victories are beautiful but this one is extra special because it came down to the wire. The whole scenario was unimaginable, there were only seconds separating the race leaders. I’ve completed nearly 100 rallies in my life and this was the one where I had to fight the hardest.”

Cyril Despres won his fourth Dakar Rally bike title in 2012.

“I gave it my all on every single day of the race but in the end I have to congratulate Cyril because he is the champion. My attention now switches to next year’s race and I’ll be back to try and win my title once more. This is the seventh year that the title has been won by Cyril or myself and if we keep alternating like this it should be my turn again in 12 months!

Marc Coma had to settle for second place, unable to add to his three Dakar Rally bike titles.

“Making it to the end of the Dakar is always a terrific achievement and finishing on the podium is an incredible feeling. Marc and Cyril are both great riders and very tough nuts to crack. I lost 20 minutes on them on stage four and 20 minutes a few days later. When you lose 40 minutes on those guys at the Dakar it’s not easy to get that time back.”

- Helder Rodrigues finished third for the second consecutive year after once again being unable to break up Despres and Coma’s domination of the desert classic.

“It’s unbelievable to have cracked the top 10 in my first year at the race and also to have finished as the top rider from the Americas. Mission accomplished! I’ve got to thank everybody who believed in the project because the challenge was far tougher than we ever could have imagined. Even though the Dakar was such an enormous test I’m already looking forward to coming back again next year. With even better planning and preparation I think an improved result is possible next time.”

Felipe Zanol put in an ultra impressive ride on his Dakar debut.

“What a feeling to reach the finish of this tough, tough race. 15 days of hot weather and dust are now over and I’m so happy to take home lots of souvenirs and amazing emotions. The first thing I did when I crossed the podium in Lima was to get a good shower in the hotel and try to adapt to life without sand! The Red Bull party was a good place to celebrate completing my first ever Dakar Rally.”

Johnny Aubert was able to bring the sort of riding that has won him two Enduro World Championships to the Dakar Rally.

“There goes six months' preparation, a trip to Namibia for testing, 15 days at the race, 13 stages and a whole lot of fun and games. It was all so, so worth it to have completed the Dakar Rally. I’m super stoked to have pulled it off because I’m really not sure I’ll get another chance to do the race. I’m sore all over and on the hunt for a beer and a bath but overall very happy to have finished. I had a couple of big crashes out there, the first nearly totalled my bike and the second knocked me out for a bit. Only 50% of the bikes that entered finished this year and to end up in 27th spot overall will do for me.”

Chris Birch provided a breath of fresh air out on the stage and in the bivouac as well.

“It’s hard not to feel angry because we were working on a strategy of bringing the bike home every day and achieving consistency. Things were working well and I had climbed from my starting position of 130th to 43rd place in the standings. Then I was out on the stage and I was told by an official to take the wrong route. This meant I hit a hole and my race finished prematurely. There are still lots of positives for me to look back on from my 10 days at the race and I will definitely be back next year.”

Mohammed Balooshi suffered heartbreak after feeling his way into the Dakar Rally.

“Our trump card was the reliability of the Toyota Hilux because we never had to stop to fix any major problems on any stage of the race. That’s why we were able to finish on the podium. Now I’m already looking forward to next year’s race because the playing field will be a lot more level. There’s no doubt that next year we’ll be coming to the race to try and win.”

Giniel de Villiers arrived at the 2012 Dakar Rally with an untested car and ended up with a spot on the podium. Lekke!

“I’m happy to have achieved my aim of finishing the rally on my first attempt. It was an immense challenge and I truly believe that all of the competitors who arrived in Lima are winners. During my career as a ski jumper I was alone in the air and it was a great feeling to be alongside Rafal (Marton) during this race. The benefit of his experience cannot be overstated. I’m now looking forward to using everything I have learned about the race this year and improving as a rally driver.”

- Adam Malysz is more than content with his first outing at the Dakar Rally.

“The race ended for us on the stage between San Juan and Chilecito where everything that could go wrong for us did go wrong. First the steering wheel broke and while we were fixing it a car came into the back of us. This caused further damaged including smashing all our windows. When we got moving again the electrics on the car burnt out and we had to stop to allow the car to cool down every two miles or so. We battled to get to the end of the stage and we arrived in the bivouac at 8.30. After working through the night we eventually took the regrettable decision to withdraw the car from the race. I want to thank every single supporter who came to the race and cheered us on with all their hearts.”

Norberto Fontana’s race ended prematurely as the local hero experienced difficulty on the fourth stage.

“It was the proudest moment of my life when I got the news that my team had trusted me to drive truck #500 at the Dakar Rally. This is the truck that Vladimir Chagin, the Tsar of the Desert, used to create history at this race. I was looking forward to carrying on that winning tradition. I was aspiring to make Vladimir and the rest of the team proud of my performance. Unfortunately none of that was possible after my race finished much sooner than I hoped it would.”

- Eduard Nikolaev suffered the disappointed of having his Kamaz Truck disqualified from the race

“We suffered lots of problems in the first week of the race but we still finished with three Kamaz trucks in the top five. It was not always easy for me to be a spectator instead of out on the stages driving the truck but I still managed to learn a lot from my first trip to the Dakar as a coach to our young drivers. I have no doubt that next year the whole podium will be blue once again.”

Vladimir Chagin has confidence things will be much different for Kamaz next year

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