Throughout the 12-day rally which was being held in Middle East for the first time, Sainz was pushed all the way by Al Attiyah in his Toyota Hilix as well as by his MINI team-mate Stephane Peterhansel who brought up the last spot on the podium.
The Spanish champion needed to call on all his off-road experience and expertise to keep the two challengers at bay. The trio now have a grand total of 19 Dakar wins between them.
"It's been a great race. We've had lots of fun and enjoyed ourselves the whole way. The fight with Carlos (Sainz) and Stephane (Peterhansel) has been tough.
There were three drivers at the front of the race giving it everything to win. Well done to both Carlos and Stephane because we were all involved in a great race," said Al Attiyah, who had won the Dakar previously in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Competitors in the off-road odyssey of over 7,500 kilometres were pushed to the limit over 12 stages on unforgiving terrain.
Spaniard Sainz and his compatriot co-driver Lucas Cruz put their MINI buggy in pole position from stage 3 and stayed on top of the general classification all the way to Qiddiya.
Not so happy
Al Attiyah had narrowed down the gap with Sainz to just 24sec after stage 9, but a navigational error on stage 10 put paid to their hopes and he was quite candid while admitting that.
"I'm quite happy, we did a good job to finish second even though we wanted to win," Al Attiyah concluded.