Stephane Peterhansel says his faultless run to a record 11th Dakar victory was "like a dream."
The Frenchman took the lead of the rally on the second day and gradually extended his advantage, particularly when both Red Bull buggies hit problems. Their exit left him almost an hour clear at the front of the field and allowed him to cruise the final stages to secure his 11th win.
Peterhansel is now the only man to have won the car category five times, having matched Ari Vatanen's record of four when he won last year.
"It's been like a dream, there were no problems at all and the car was incredible, 100 per ent reliable," Peterhansel said. "It's incredible that we were able to defend the title from last year. We had some strong opponents, but that helped focus us from the start.
"This is still motorsport, so it wasn't finished until we crossed the line, but once we had a sizeable gap it was a bit more comfortable and allowed us to change strategy a little."
The X-raid driver said this year's route was an improvement, too
"For me, this year is the best route since we have come to South America," he said. "The first four days in Peru were very complicated for navigation because of the soft sand and dunes, but also it was very nice landscapes. For me – but maybe not for everybody – it has been the best start since the Dakar moved."
Peterhansel admitted he was moving into the final stages of his career, but said it was likely he would contest at least two more editions of the race.
"Maybe before I get to 50 I stop," he explained. "I am 48 this year – close to the end, no?
"Money has never been my motivation – you need passion to race the Dakar. For me it's interesting because it's not just about speed; yes you need it, but you also need to mix in endurance, strategy, navigation. It's a compromise of all the parameters, and one I continue to find interesting."