Peru welcomed the 41st edition of the Dakar that finished today in Lima after 10 punishing stages, the outcome of which was victory for a heroic Toby Price in the bike race, Nasser Al-Attiyah with his third title in the car category thanks to his exemplary strategic poise, Nicolás Cavigliasso unprecedentedly dominating the quad category, Francisco “Chaleco” López succeeding in his comeback and conversion after six years of absence with a win in the SxS race and Eduard Nikolaev picking up his fourth title in the truck race.
Beyond the winners, 179 riders, drivers and crews (75 bikes, 15 quads, 76 cars, 20 SxS and 13 trucks) reached Lima to enjoy a podium ceremony at the end of the day on Magdalena beach, where it all started.
One single duo managed to avoid all the pitfalls, find the balance between performance and driving safely and grasp all the subtleties of the navigation to which they were subjected.
It was the crew made up of Nasser Al-Attiyah behind the wheel and Mathieu Baumel as co-pilot. On completion of the ten stages, three of which he won, the Qatari driver also won the Dakar for the third time, thanks to a carefully crafted scenario and a superb understanding of strategy.
One by one, the “Prince of the desert” distanced his direct rivals, striking a big blow on his adversaries on the Super Ica stage (stage 8), where he took care to start a considerable distance behind his rivals.
Always in control, the boss of the race observed his pursuers do battle in the dunes, whether it was Stéphane Peterhansel, Sébastien Loeb or Nani Roma, before setting the historical record straight in Lima. Toyota, the constructor which has most probably entered the largest number of vehicles in the history of the Dakar, won the car category for the first time to reward the efforts of Team Overdrive, which had previously been prevented from reaching the top step on the podium by the Peugeots or the Minis, firstly with Giniel de Villiers or also last year with Al-Attiyah.
As for the X-Raid team, in the end, the 4×4 Mini achieved the firm’s best results, with Nani Roma in 2nd position and Jakub Przygonski again stepping up a notch in the hierarchy by climbing to 4th place.
The challenge to win for Sébastien Loeb genuinely seemed possible in light of the gaps that he was capable of opening up when everything was running smoothly.
However, navigational mistakes and mechanical problems put paid to his hopes for victory. He finished the rally with four extra stage wins on his roll of honour and another place on the final podium (3rd).
What a fine story was told thanks to the monstrous determination and bravery shown by Toby Price.
Taking part in his fifth Dakar with a wrist that was still sore after fracturing his scaphoid bone several weeks before the start, the Australian grinned and bore it, focusing on consistency rather than the verve that his rivals showed, as they picked up stage victories.
Gritting his teeth day after day to stay in contact with the best, the winner in 2016 finally took the lead in the general standings the day before the finish and offered spectators a genuine recital with a stage victory in Lima.
This allows him to write a second Dakar rally on his role of honour and an 18th in a row for his employer KTM. Indeed, for the Austrian firm, this was an especially satisfying triumph with its three official riders on the podium in Peru.
Matthias Walkner, the title holder, took second place, while Sam Sunderland, the winner in 2017, rounded off a podium that again sees Honda absent. Yet, Joan Barreda had offered high hopes to HRC with a superb start to the rally before coming undone, while Ricky Brabec was surprisingly comfortable for 8 stages… until the engine on his Honda broke. It was a cruel disappointment for the American one year after having suffered the same fate, similar to the misfortune that rained down on Adrien Van Beveren, whose Yamaha also gave in on him so near to the finish.
In the end, it was Pablo Quintanilla who resisted the KTM clan for the longest amount of time, before his hopes collapsed due to a fall on the last stage of this uncompromising Dakar…
Side by Side
A battle well and truly took place in the Side by Side category, which swelled threefold in number in 2019 (with 30 crews at the start), thanks to the arrival of prestigious competitors, such as former biker Francisco López, who had previously failed to conquer the title on two wheels (3rd in 2010 and in 2013) but did not let the chance slip through his fingers for his first participation in the SxS category.
After a discrete start to the rally, “Chaleco” put on an imperial display ahead of title holder Reinaldo Varela and former biker Gerard Farrés (3rd in 2017), while Sergey Karyakin, Casey Currie or Ignacio Casale had already lost a lot of ground.
The most successful comeback kid on the Dakar 2019, with three stage victories to add to his already impressive roll of honour (11 specials on a bike), “Chaleco” nailed Chile’s colours even further on to the mast of the rally, with a triumph that follows on from countryman Ignacio Casale’s two successes in the quad race (in 2014 and 2018).
The race was soon dominated by Argentinean Nicolás Gavigliasso. It would be euphemistic to say that the rider from Córdoba sailed through this edition of the Dakar because he quite simply won nine out of ten stages on the 2019 edition, an unprecedented feat in the history of the most famous rally-raid, for all of the categories put together.
What’s more, at the age of 27 years old, the Yamaha rider was only taking part in his second Dakar this year. “It wasn’t easy,” declared Nico at the finish to the last stage. “I worked hard before this Dakar. It’s only my second Dakar, but I kept pushing, I wanted to finish in front. Now I’m number one in the quad race and I’m so, so happy”.
Jeremías González Ferioli, second in the general standings 1 hour 55 minutes behind the winner, was Cavigliasso’s sole rival who managed to win a special, on the third stage. Taking part in his fourth Dakar, the young 23-year old rider from Córdoba was not able to put his countryman under pressure.
Behind the two Argentineans, Frenchman Alexandre Giroud finished on the third step of the podium.
Starting like a canon ball with two stage victories to commence his defence of the title on the Dakar, in the end Eduard Nikoalev had somewhat of a fright. Although it was thought that the Kamaz driver would again be untouchable, the Russian was put under serious pressure by his rivals, in particular his team-mates Andrey Karginov and Dmitry Sotnikov, to such an extent that he lost the lead of the rally to Sotnikov two days from the finish.
However, the three-time winner of the event finally reacted flawlessly with a splendid victory on stage 9 to regain the lead and drive his truck onto the highest step of the podium in Lima, for the fourth time.
Sotnikov will therefore have to wait another year to hope to obtain his holy grail, a success which Gerard de Rooy, on the third step of the podium, has tasted twice. The Iveco driver was expected to be the main rival of the Kamaz team, but finally he was never a genuine threat.
PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY
Anastasiya Nifontova’s daughter likes to tell her that she is no ordinary mum and who are we to pretend any different following the extraordinary performance of this mother of two children, enthused by the Dakar since her childhood and who already left a mark on the race by finishing in 75th place on her first participation in 2017.
The Russian’s performance on the 2019 edition is on another level, because, not content with reaching the podium in Lima in 62nd place in the general standings, Anastasiya has displayed impressive determination to become the first woman to complete the Dakar unassisted, in the formidable Original by Motul category.
This prowess has allowed her to finish in 9th place in the classification for the brave, which was won by Dutchman Edwin Straver.
A CRUSHING BLOW
At the age of 32 years and after seven Dakar rallies, Pablo Quintanilla finally thought it might be his day. Lying second in the general standings this morning, one minute behind Toby Price hindered by his inured wrist, the Chilean decided to go on all out attack to go and grab his life long dream, outright triumph on the Dakar…
However, this dream turned into a nightmare on the sandy last special of the rally when the official Husqvarna rider fell just several kilometres after the start. Bravely remounting his steed with a fractured ankle to complete the special and save his place on the podium, in the end Quintanilla lost out on a place in the top 3 due to the return onto the podium by Sam Sunderland thanks to a reversal of the penalty received earlier in the race.
STAT OF THE DAY
90 %: Nicolás Cavigliasso has entered the ranks of the very best on only his second Dakar, during which he dominated the quad category by winning nine of the ten stages on the programme. The record for victories on a sole edition is still held by Pierre Lartigue in the car category, with 10 specials in the bag… but on a Dakar rally that was sixteen stages long.
Three other competitors can boast a score of 9 stages on an edition: Hubert Auriol (on a bike in 1984), Jacky Ickx (in a car in 1984) and Vladimir Chagin (in a truck in 2010), but nobody has ever reached the phenomenal percentage of success achieved by the Argentinean quad rider.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Toby Price “The pain and torture has been worth it”
Three years after becoming the first Australian winner of the Dakar, Toby Price has triumphed again, fighting against the increasing pain caused by a scaphoid injury that was not quite healed before the start of the rally.
“It’s very crazy to sit here and say that we won the Dakar rally with no stage victories until today. It’s really crazy. I’m over the moon, I’m so damned stoked. It’s been a long 10 days. Now I’ll just wait and see what damage I’ve done to my wrist. At the end of the day, the pain and torture has been worth it. I thought I would only be able to do two stages and then pull out and that would have been me done, but the support from everyone back home in Australia and then having some things go my way and a bit of luck, it just worked out in the end. It’s been an unreal rally. [On the pain] Pretty much all I can say is that it feels like there are about five people driving a knife in my wrist now. It’s not very comfortable, it’s not very enjoyable, but at the end of the day the victory has paid off. I’ll forget about the pain now, that’s for sure. The win takes away all the pain. For sure, if it wasn’t for this victory it wouldn’t have been as sweet, but at the end of the day I was just happy to make the finishing line. I didn’t think I was even going to be able to do that. I’m not the new boss of the rally, that’s for sure. There are so many guys that can win this race and we had strong competitors like Pablo and Ricky Brabec, Sam Sunderland, Matthias Walkner… everyone is strong. You can never count anybody out. Kevin Benavides did a great job and at the end of the day we all fight to the finish line and it’s been a hard rally. I just don’t like giving up, I don’t like quitting, that’s for sure. That’s about it. I love being out on my bike and I love riding and to be here with all the Dakar family and the KTM team it’s amazing. So, yeah, we’re pumped”.