Bengaluru, January 15: Thirty years after his miden victory at the Dakar Rally, it is Stephane Peterhansel on the top step of the podium again as he won the 2021 edition held in Saudi Arabia, beating the challenge of Nasser Al Attiyah and Carlos Sainz.
Starting the shortened final day 15m31s clear of Al Attiyah, Peterhansel finished third behind stage winner Sainz and the ace Qatari.
For the records it was the 14th title for man they call Monsieur Dakar -- that is eight victories behind the wheel of a car to add to the six wins the Frenchman claimed in the bike category.
Peterhansel now stands alone as the biggest winner in a single category thanks to his eight car race wins. Monsieur Dakar had previously shared that record with Vladimir Chagin who won the truck race seven times for Kamaz.
Peterhansel and co-driver Edouard Boulanger took the lead of this Dakar on stage two, and their MINI Buggy held onto it ever since.
The now 14-time Dakar winner admitted that leading for so long added pressure and also praised the work of his new co-driver.
"It was a really tough one this year and there's always more pressure when you're the leader for so long. We had everything to lose, but we did a really precise race, almost perfect. The key this year was avoiding those big mistakes. It's working really well inside the cockpit, it's a good feeling to have Edouard sit next to me. This was his first Dakar in a top car and he did a really excellent job," said Peterhansel.
Despite winning six stages in his Toyota Hilux at this Dakar it was still not enough to give Al Attiyah his fourth overall victory at the rally. The 50-year-old and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel pushed Peterhansel all the way, eventually settling for second overall and a ninth podium finish at the Dakar.
"I'm a little disappointed to finish second, but also grateful that we could finish the race. I'm really proud of the work we've done as a team, from when we started until now. I'm sure we'll be even stronger next year and we can have the victory," said Al Attiyah
Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz got the defence of their 2020 Dakar title off to the best possible start.
However, time lost navigating the route - especially on stage three - ultimately cost the pair a shot at victory. In the end it was third place for Sainz's MINI Buggy at his 14th Dakar drive.
"I'm happy for the team and happy for Stephane, I think he did a really fantastic job. He deserves his victory, that's why they call him Monsieur Dakar," said Sainz.
Nine-time World Rally Championship winner Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena were forced to retire from the rally on stage eight.
As the dust has settled at the Dakar Rally 2021, myKhel.com salutes all those who made this latest edition truly memorable.
For the convoy of racers, thoughts are already focused on preparing mind and motor for a trip back to the dunes next year!