Volkswagen's Nasser Al-Attiyah locked up his first Dakar Rally victory with the second-fastest time on the final stage, which was won by his teammate Carlos Sainz.
Al-Attiyah hit the front of the legendary event when long-time leader Sainz lost a lot of ground in sand dunes on stage eight earlier this week. Sainz tried to fight back only to suffer even worse delays with various damaged components on stages 10 and 11, pushing him back to third in an all-VW podium behind Giniel de Villiers. Second place on today's final 181-kilometer blast back to Buenos Aires gave Al-Attiyah a final winning margin of nearly 50 minutes over de Villiers, who was in turn half an hour clear of Sainz.
X-Raid BMW driver Stephane Peterhansel had been in thick of a three-way battle with Sainz and Al-Attiyah during the first week of the event, before a series of punctures saw him lose touch with the lead fight, and eventually fall right back to finish in fourth place. His teammate Krzysztof Holowczyc completed the final top five, ahead of VW's fourth works driver Mark Miller, as the leading drivers cruised to the finish without incident.
Al-Attiyah (RIGHT) described his Dakar triumph as the highlight of his career. The Qatari driver was involved in a close battle with Sainz and Peterhansel in the first half of the rally, before hitting the front at the start of the second week when both his rivals hit problems.
"It means a lot to win a Dakar, for me, for my people, for my country and for my team," said Al-Attiyah. "It is a great victory. It's hard to explain everything that goes through your head. But it is a very nice feeling.
"We demonstrated that we have the strongest team in the world. It is the third time the team has won a Dakar. It is also the biggest moment in my career."
He also hopes the result will help put Qatar on the world motorsports map.
"I think that now people will finally know where Qatar is located," Al-Attiyah joked.
Al-Attiyah's victory came in his sixth attempt at the Dakar. He had led for X-Raid BMW in 2009 until being excluded for missing way points, while last year he joined VW and finished just two minutes behind his victorious teammate Sainz in second place.
The 40-year-old's other achievements include winning the Production class title in the 2006 World Rally Championship, winning last year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge season finale, and competing in the skeet shooting competition at the Olympic Games.
Stage 13 results:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen 1h16m08s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen + 38s
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW + 1m25s
4. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen + 1m58s
5. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 2m02s
6. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 2m57s
7. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 3m58s
8. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 6m26s
9. Alfie Cox Nissan + 8m47s
10. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 8m59s
Final overall positions:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen 21h16m16s
2. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen + 49m41s
3. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen + 1h20m38s
4. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 1h43m48s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW + 4h11m21s
6. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 4h54m42s
7. Ricardo Leal dos Santos BMW + 6h50m07s
8. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 7h57m18s
9. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 8h23m37s
10. Matthias Kahle SMG + 15h11m56s