Dramatic Finale For 2017 Dakar Rally: Winners Each Create History (Video)

The 38th edition of the Dakar Rally was one for the record books, winners Sam Sunderland and Stephane Peterhansel each making history.

Sunderland secured the first Dakar triumph for a British rider in securing the motorcycle category, extending the winning streak for KTM to an unprecedented 16 events.

Peterhansel’s victory brought his own personal tally to seven wins in the car category and 13 across cars and motorcycle classes, while his Peugeot team took an emphatic 1-2-3 sweep of the podium.

The 12th and final stage was more akin to a victory lap than a Dakar test; the 64 kilometre competitive section a straightforward sprint, although competitors had a long 700km liaison route to the podium at Buenos Aires.

Among the finishers were Australian riders Todd Smith and Matt Hart. Both battled injuries along the gruelling rally to secure a personal triumph: for Smith, a finish inside the top 20; for Hart, a finish on one of the most intense and demanding sporting events in the world.

A sixth place finish on the final stage was more than enough to secure victory for Sunderland. Incredibly, it is the first Dakar he has finished. In fact, it is the first time he’s made it past the fourth day!

“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” he said after crossing the finish line.

“When I crossed the line my emotions really took over. I’ve had a lot of weight on my shoulders for the last six days. Now it feels incredible.

“I have to say thanks to my team, the bike has been great from start to finish. When Toby (Price) went out of the race it was a blow to the team as he’s a good friend. Because of the strong bonds we have in our team it helped us to pull together and strive to do something special.

“There’s a lot of fast guys that have the potential to win this race, I think cutting out the mistakes was the key to this win.

“To finish here is incredible. It’s the first Dakar I’ve ever finished and to finish first is an incredible feeling. I’m really lost for words.”

Walkner, too, finished Dakar for the first time and in second place to boot, capping his comeback from badly breaking his femur on last year’s rally.

“This was a really rough Dakar so to arrive in Buenos Aires on the podium is an amazing feeling,” he said.

“It’s really cool after what happened last year, because I had a bad injury and I needed half a year to get back on the bike and believe I could make it onto the podium.”

The final podium place was in dispute to the final day.

Adrien Van Beveren looked poised to steal it on the penultimate stage, the Yamaha rider pipping KTM privateer Gerard Farres by 28 seconds after Stage 11 only to be pinged for speeding on the liaison section and handed a one minute penalty.

Van Beveren did everything he could, winning the final stage and Yamaha’s first on the 2017 event, but Farres matched his time to the second to secure his first top-three finish in his 10th start on the event.

“I’ve been taking part in this Dakar for ten years. Among other things, I was the water carrier for Chaleco López and Marc Coma, and now I’m here,” Farres said.

“We’re a private team and we don’t have the same resources and engines as the official team, but we’ve got the passion. And now we got a podium spot at the Dakar. It’s magical.”

Honda’s Joan Barreda was third fastest on the day and fifth overall, the Spaniard’s poor luck again denying him a Dakar victory.

Barreda won four stages across the rally but a Stage 4 penalty for refuelling in an unauthorised zone, levied to all factory Honda riders, leaves him to once again savour what could have been.

Two of our contingent of four Australian riders made it to the finish line.

Todd Smith clinched a top 20 finish on the final day, his 43rd fastest time enough to elevate him to 18th position at the end of 12 days of racing.

He did it tough in the final days; Smith was third fastest early in Stage 10 before crashing heavily. He limped his way through the final two stages and clinched an incredible result, even more so considering he only secured a Dakar start less than a month before the start of the rally.

Hart can be justifiably proud of finishing his maiden Dakar, flying the flag of Australian charity Soldier On high in securing a top 50 finish on debut.

A crash early in the event left him with an injured shoulder, Hart left to nurse it throughout the most demanding stages of the trek through the high altitude trails and dunes in Bolivia and back down into the heat of Argentina.

TOP 5 — Stage 12, Rio Cuarto to Buenos Aires
1. (6) Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 30m29s
2. (8) Gerard Farres (KTM) +0s
3. (11) Joan Barreda (Honda) +18s
4. (16) Matthias Walkner (KTM) +33s
5. (17) Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +1m25s
35. Matt Hart (Husqvarna) +8m31s
43. Todd Smith (KTM) +9m36s

1. (14) Sam Sunderland (KTM) 32h06m22s
2. (16) Matthias Walkner (KTM) +32m00s
3. (8) Gerard Farres (KTM) +35m40s
4. (6) Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) +36m28s
5. (11) Joan Barreda (Honda) +43m08s
6. (17) Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +52m29s
7. (31) Pele Renet (Husqvarna) +57m35s
8. (67) Franco Caimi (Honda) +1h42m18s
9. (5) Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +2h03m06s
10. (27) Joaqim Rodrigues (Hero Speedbrain) +2h19m37s
18. (79) Todd Smith (KTM) +3h53m25s
44. (149) Matthew Hart (Husqvarna) +9h19m46s
DNF (1) Toby Price (KTM) crash, Stage 4
DNF (43) Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) mechanical, Stage 4

Peterhansel labelled his 13th Dakar victory his sweetest, staving off a strong challenge from nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb throughout the event.

Though Loeb snared five stage wins to Peterhansel’s three across the 10 stages that were run, it was the latter’s experience which triumphed over the former’s raw speed.

The even boiled down to a head-to-head duel between them after Toyota’s challenge folded early, Nasser Al-Attiyah hitting a rock and retiring on just the second day while all his teammates also lost crucial amounts of time.

“It was still up in the air before the start of the race,” Peterhansel, who hadn’t driven competitively in months, said.

“The internal competition was fierce and there were, in all, seven or eight drivers with a shot at victory. Halfway through the race there were only four left, and by the final week it was just Sébastien and me.

“It was a high-stakes duel, we went fast. I’d like to thank Peugeot for providing us with awesome cars and, especially, for not issuing team orders, which is a great show of fair play because it puts us all on an even footing.

“We were fighting against a super-fast champion who knows how to race from the lead and isn’t easily impressed. Yesterday, it was decided by a flat tyre, and that was probably the turning point in this Dakar.

“My strategy was to push Sébastien to his limits. This made him more likely to make mistakes, which he eventually did, so it’s not a matter of luck.”

Loeb, who won the final stage, can hold his head high. He and co-driver Daniel Elena made phenomenal improvements in their navigation since their Dakar debut last year and a maiden victory is surely just around the corner.

“It was better this time round, and we managed to stay on the track,” Loeb said.

“We made a few navigation mistakes, but at the end of the day we did quite well in a Dakar as difficult as this one. A small mechanical cost us some time at the start, and then we had to bust a gut to make up the lost time.

“We have what it takes to win the race. I don’t think I’m going to race in as many editions of the Dakar as Peterhansel, but my aim is to win it someday: we’ll have to keep on trying.”

Peugeot locked out the podium, Cyril Despres taking his best result since switching from the motorcycle class with a third-place finish and a stage win.

The first non-Peugeot was over an hour off Peterhansel’s pace, Nani Roma bringing home the first Toyota ahead of stablemate Giniel De Villiers after a troubled rally where the Hiluxes were simply not fast enough at high altitude.

TOP 5 on Stage 12 — Rio Cuarto to Buenos Aires

1. (309) Loeb/Elena (Peugeot) 28m55s

2. (300) Peterhansel/Cottret (Peugeot) +19s

3. (302) De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +30s

4. (307) Despres/Castera (Peugeot) +53s

5. (320) Rautenbach/Howie (Toyota) +1m00s

1. (300) Peterhansel/Cottret (Peugeot) 28h49m30s
2. (309) Loeb/Elena (Peugeot) +5m13s
3. (307) Despres/Castera (Peugeot) +33m28s
4. (305) Roma/Haro Bravo (Toyota) +1h16m43s
5. (302) De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +1h49m48s
6. (308) Terranova/Schulz (Mini) +1h52m31s
7. (316) Przygonsi/Colsoul (Mini) +4h14m47s
8. (318) Dumas/Guehennec (Peugeot) +4h24m01s
9. (320) Rautenbach/Howie (Toyota) +4h40m13s
10. (322) Abu-Issa/Panseri (Mini) +4m53m30s


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