Ninth Dakar win for Peterhansel

Stephane Peterhansel took a record ninth Dakar Rally victory on Sunday after two weeks of racing from Lisbon and through the Saharan desert dunes to Senegal

Ninth Dakar win for Peterhansel

With more than seven minutes advantage, the Mitsubishi driver took it easy on the short 15th and final stage around the Lac Rose north of the Senegalese capital to add a third title in the car category to his six victories on two wheels.

Teammate Luc Alphand, the holder, was second overall while Jean-Louis Schlesser completed a French clean sweep in a buggy.

South African Giniel de Villiers won the final stage in a Volkswagen. Peterhansel was 51st and Alphand 53rd.

The 41-year-old Peterhansel's success, his third in four years as a car driver, came without winning a stage on the two-week event and handed Mitsubishi their seventh victory in a row.

"It was a difficult course this year, extremely stressful. There are races you win easily and those that exhaust you and this was one of the last kind," he told Reuters.

The Frenchman summed up the gruelling event as "a lot of kilometres in Africa, a lot of emotion and happiness, a few disappointments too...but the Dakar Rally is truly magnificent".

The race has claimed 50 lives in its 29-year history, 25 of them competitors.

Several critics deride it as an irresponsible event driven more by commercialisation than sporting competition.

The final stage was overshadowed by the death on Saturday of French motorcycle rider Eric Aubijoux.

The 42-year-old died of a heart attack after completing the penultimate stage.

South African rider Elmer Symons, taking part in his first Dakar as a competitor, died after crashing on the fourth day in Morocco.

The fatalities, which last year included two African children hit by vehicles, have prompted condemnation of the rally from critics who say it is not worth the deadly toll.

But competitors defended it.

"It's still more dangerous to drive down the road in most of the world than it is to take part in this rally," said U.S. rider Chris Blais, who finished third in the motorcycle race.

"Elmer dying in a motorcycle race is better than him dying in a car accident. For us, motorcycling is what we love to do no matter what the danger."

Drummers, stilt-walkers, hawkers, spectators and crowds of children greeted the arrival of the competitors close to the salt-impregnated pink waters of Lac Rose.

Local people scrambled over the dunes to catch a glimpse of the speeding vehicles while children built sandcastles on the beach next to the rally course.

Stage 15 classification: Pos Driver Make Time 1. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen 7:42 2. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen 7:44 3. Robby Gordon Hummer 8:08 4. Carlos Sousa Volkswagen 8:24 5. Jean-Louis Schlesser Schlesser-Ford 8:25 6. Freddy Loix Buggy 8:35 7. Jutta Kleinschmidt BMW 8:44 8. Michael Petersen Buggy 8:49 9. Miguel Barbosa Proto 8:51 10. Nani Roma Mitsubishi 8:59 Final Standings Pos Driver Make Time 1. Stephane Peterhansel Mitsubishi 45:53:37 2. Luc Alphand Mitsubishi 46:01:03 3. Jean-Louis Schlesser Schlesser-Ford 47:27:34 4. Mark Miller Volkswagen 48:03:53 5. Hiroshi Masuoka Mitsubishi 48:38:08 6. Nasser Al-Attiyah BMW 49:25:36 7. Carlos Sousa Volkswagen 51:04:31 8. Robby Gordon Hummer 52:57:44 9. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen 53:19:22 10. Stephane Henrard Volkswagen 54:22:06 
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