Sainz clinches Dakar Rally victory
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, January 16th 2010, 16:47 GMT|
Carlos Sainz resisted Volkswagen team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah's late challenge to clinch his first Dakar Rally victory.
Al-Attiyah had reduced Sainz's lead - which at one stage reached 10 minutes - to just under three minutes going into the final stage.
But although Al-Attiyah was fastest again on today's San Rafael to Buenos Aires leg, he could not do enough in the final 206 kilometres to overhaul the former World Rally champion, who wrapped up victory with a cushion of 2m12s.
"It has been a very important day for me," said Sainz. "Spain has finally won the Dakar with cars and I'm delighted. I want to thank [co-pilot] Lucas [Cruz] for his great work and to all the team, and everybody who put their trust in me.
"We haven't had any problems, and the car doesn't have a scratch. I think we have done a fast but intelligent Dakar. It has been a very hard fight with my team-mate. We knew it would be that way. As I said before, I want to thank everyone who trusted in me."
Al-Attiyah had been determined to catch Sainz during the final days, but insisted he was still content with second.
"I'm quite happy," he said. "Second place is a good result for me because I've never been in this position.
"I was pushing, but everybody knows this stage is quite straight. Really I'm so happy with second place because I tried my best. It's a good feeling because we did a great job all Dakar without any mistakes or accidents with other cars."
Mark Miller finished third, to complete a one-two-three for VW as it repeated its 2009 win.
Sainz had held the lead from stage five onwards, as VW took command of the second half of the rally following a strong early challenge from the X-raid BMW team.
The BMWs had the pace to take the fight to VW, but not the consistency. Stage one winner Nani Roma crashed heavily on the second day, Guerlain Chicherit had to play catch-up from the start following severe electrical problems, and a broken propshaft on stage five cost Dakar legend Stephane Peterhansel a growing lead.
Peterhansel and Chicherit at least fought back to fourth and fifth, ahead of Carlos Sousa in the best of the ex-works Mitsubishis now run by the JMB Stradale team.
Last year's winner Giniel de Villiers was only seventh for VW after a string of early problems, while NASCAR regular Robby Gordon had a troubled fortnight in his Hummer and had to settle for eighth this time.
Stage 14: Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW 1h19m42s 2. Carlos Sainz VW + 36s 3. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 43s 4. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 1m08s 5. Mark Miller VW + 1m39s 6. Giniel de Villiers VW + 1m41s 7. Robby Gordon Hummer + 1m58s 8. Orlando Terranova Mitsubishi + 2m28s 9. Robert Baldwin Hummer + 3m15s 10. Nicolas Misslin Mitsubishi + 4m20s Overall: Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Carlos Sainz VW 47h10m00s 2. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW + 2m12s 3. Mark Miller VW + 32m51s 4. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 2h17m21s 5. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 4h02m49s 6. Carlos Sousa Mitsubishi + 4h31m45s 7. Giniel de Villiers VW + 5h10m19s 8. Robby Gordon Hummer + 6h02m24s 9. Orlando Terranova Mitsubishi + 6h04m47s 10. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 6h13m41s