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Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah won his fifth Dakar rally-raid by car on Sunday, the second in a row, ahead of Frenchman Sébastien Loeb. Argentinian Kevin Benavides wins his second motorcycle title on the wire.
Qatari Nasser al-Attiyah (Toyota) won his fifth Dakar rally-raid by car on Sunday January 15, at the end of the 14th and final stage in Dammam (Saudi Arabia), during which Argentinian Kevin Benavides stalled, on the wire, his second Dakar on a motorcycle.
Triple winner of stages this year and already winner of the famous rally-raid in 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2022, Nasser al-Attiyah was more than an hour ahead of Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive) and young Brazilian Lucas Moraes ( Toyota), 25, who was taking part in the competition for the first time.
Really difficult weather conditions for everyone
In the lead since the third stage of the rally-raid which started on December 31 from the shores of the Red Sea, near Yanbu, the 52-year-old driver saw a boulevard open up when his main competitors successively bit the Saudi dust.
“I am very happy to win the Dakar again and to have kept my title. The weather conditions of this Dakar were really difficult for everyone. Mathieu (Baumel, his co-driver) did a wonderful job”, reacted Nasser al-Attiyah.
Sébastien Loeb said goodbye to a final success in stage 2, a distance of one hour and 26 minutes behind due in particular to three punctures. Although he failed again in his quest for the Dakar, the nine-time WRC world rally champion nevertheless marked the history of the famous rally-raid by snatching six consecutive stage victories in this edition, an unprecedented performance.
“After the start of the rally we had, we couldn’t have hoped for much better than that. On a regular basis, Nasser, it was unplayable, he had a very good race and no mistakes”, explained the Alsatian 48 years old.
“A dream” for Benavides
For his part, Stéphane Peterhansel (Audi) and big favorite retired on January 6 after an accident in which his co-driver Edouard Boulanger was injured.
Blocked the same day in the same place, the Spaniard Carlos Sainz could not overcome the more than 28 hours of penalized scooped then and finally threw in the towel, on January 10, during the 9th stage.
On the motorbike, the scenario was much more breathtaking and it was the Argentinian Kevin Benavides, after fifteen days of fierce battle, who finally beat on the wire during the final stage, the Australian Toby Price .
On Sunday’s arrival in Dammam after almost 45 hours of racing and more than 8,000 km traveled in the ultra-conservative kingdom, Kevin Benavides finally beat the Australian by 43 seconds. “It’s incredible. It’s a dream, it’s my second victory in the Dakar. This edition was incredible. We fought a lot with Toby (Price) and Skyler (Howes). It was very close” , a savory Argentinian at the finish of the last stage.
As in the car, Kevin Benavides also improved the abandonment of serious competitors to the final victory in the lead rewarded by the Briton Sam Sunderland, defending champion, who had to cancel following a fall on the first stage.
On January 3, it was the turn of the American Ricky Brabec, winner of the 2020 edition, to bow out after a fall during the 3rd stage between Al-Ula and Haïl. On January 10, it was the Catalan Joan Barreda who disappeared from the rankings, he who, in 2022, had made history by exceeding the 27 stage victories of the great Jordi Arcarons.
The battle was tight between the other pilots, in particular because of the introduction of bonuses to reward the motorcyclists who opened the tracks. A system that particularly served Howes, who thus improved by more than twelve minutes of compensation and kept the lead in the general for several days.
It is also a time credit that allows Kevin Benavides to win the final victory.
The Argentinian was ideally placed to win his second Dakar by winning the penultimate stage and propelling himself to twelve seconds behind provisional leader Toby Price, recovering 23 minutes after the stage for assisting Matthias Walker, injured.
This 45th edition of the emblematic rally-raid, reputed to be the most difficult in the world, was even longer than the previous year: a prologue and 14 stages in rocks, sand and dunes, including one, the 7th , canceled for motorcycles.