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Dakar Rally: Al Attiyah crowned champion for third time

Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel

Lima (Peru), January 18: Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah cruised to his third Dakar Rally title with a 46-minute cushion over second-placed Nani Roma at the end of the world's toughest rally.

France's former nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb took third in the overall standings, almost two hours behind the Qatari whose previous wins came in 2011 and 2015.

Al Attiyah had enough in hand to avoid taking any risks in his Toyota on the 10th and final stage from Pisco to the Peruvian capital, crossing the line a sedate 12th behind Carlos Sainz, the 2018 champion.

"Everybody wants to win the Dakar. But we felt when we came that in Peru, a 100-per cent Peru rally, with no other country, there would be a lot of sand dunes, so we could do what we know we're good at," said Al Attiyah.

The Qatari driver laid down his marker for 2019 honours when rising to the top of the time sheets after the first stage.

And after winning his third stage of this year's event for his 34th career stage win the title was his, barring final-day disaster.

Fantastic win

Fantastic win

"It's fantastic," added the 48-year-old Qatari. "No mistakes during the entire rally. It was a very, very difficult rally for everybody.

"The good thing was that from day three we were leading and we built on our time everyday until we came to the last day with a big, big lead.

Loeb's challenge

Loeb's challenge

Loeb seemed like the driver most likely to challenge Al Attiyah.

The nine-time WRC winner picked up four stage victories at this Dakar, but a troublesome waypoint undid his tilt for the title.

Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena finished third overall in their Peugeot 3008DKR, their second Dakar podium finish.

"I prefer to finish first rather than third, but it was a good fight," said Loeb.

Przygonski impresses

Przygonski impresses

2018 FIA Cross County Rally World Cup winner Kuba Przygonski brought plenty of momentum into this edition of the Dakar.

The Pole's four-wheel drive MINI was competitive throughout and he just missed out on the podium with a fourth place result.

"The first week was perfect and then we had some problems. Then we made these last days in the dunes almost perfectly and made it back to fourth place," said Przygonski.

Tough debut

Tough debut

It was a tough debut for the X-raid MINI JCW Team despite boasting a superstar driving line-up of Stephane Peterhansel (FRA), Carlos Sainz (ESP) and Cyril Despres (FRA).

This trio came to Peru with 20 Dakar wins between them, but were unable to add another to their collective tally.

Peterhansel crashed out on stage nine, while Despres and Sainz finished fifth and 13th respectively.

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    Story first published: Friday, January 18, 2019, 10:27 [IST]
    Other articles published on Jan 18, 2019
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