With Stage 12 wrapped up the 2021 Dakar Rally is over and Peterhansel, Benavides and Sotnikov have won their respective categories.
Carlos Sainz (X-Raid Mini JCW Team) may have taken the 2021 Dakar Stage 12 win in the Car category but it was his teammate Stephane Peterhansel – a.k.a. Mr Dakar – who took the overall Dakar Rally win, the 14th of his career. Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021) was crowned the 2021 winner in the Bikes while Dimitry Sotnikov (Kamaz – Master) took the top spot on the podium in the Truck category.
“It’s still the same emotion for the 14th victory,” said an elated Peterhansel after the final 2021 Dakar stage. “Like I said, to win the Dakar is always really complicated. There are no easy victories on the Dakar. This one from the outside maybe looked easy, but it was not easy every day to manage the small gap over Nasser.”
“For sure, it is one or two more records for me: 14 victories, on three continents and also on the anniversary of my first victory 30 years ago today,” Peterhansel continued. “It’s a long career in motorsport. Experience and being able to stay calm helped to win, I think, but I don’t know… The difference was probably that Nasser made the first mistake on the prologue. He won the prologue and I think it was his first mistake. He probably lost the Dakar because he wanted to win the prologue.”
V8 HiLux driver Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) was second home on Stage 12 and finished the gruelling two-week long Dakar rally in second overall, just 13m 51s behind Peterhansel. Al-Attiyah may have won the event three times in the past, but this year marked his fifth second-place result, and he thinks the rules need tweaking to even the playing field between the two-wheel drive buggies like Peterhansel’s Mini (which runs larger tyres that can be inflated/deflated on the run) than the 4X4s like the Al-Attiyah’s HiLux.
“What can we do?” Al-Attiyah questioned. “This is the second year that we are fighting against the buggies. For me we only need to change the rules for it to be fair for everybody, that’s it… I think we need to change the rule against the buggies because now the buggies have been winning for five years against the 4X4 cars. There is no question, it is not a fair rule. I hope the organisers will change it, otherwise we won’t be interested in coming.”
After his Stage 12 win, overall third-place driver Carlos Sainz said, “A podium finish is always important, but I cannot be one hundred per cent happy, because we had the opportunity to fight for the victory, but we did not do such a good job with the navigation and the roadbook. We didn’t understand it and we paid for it. On the other hand, I’m happy for the team and happy for Stéphane. He did a really fantastic job. That is why he is called Mr Dakar.”
The 2021 Dakar winner in the Bikes is Kevin Benavides, who finished the two-week rally with a 4m 56s gap over teammate and last year’s winner Ricky Brabec. Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory Team) finished in third, another 10 minutes or so off the pace.
“It was absolutely crazy,” Benavides said. “I started third and after 50km I was in front opening the stage. I feel that everything was complicated, because Ricky started to catch up with me. I started to push a lot, all day, and stayed focused, so I did a good job today. Also, I went at 110 percent, but now it’s true: I’ve won the Dakar – I’m so, so happy!”
Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Team) may have crashed out of the rally on Stage 9 but Daniel Sanders (KTM Factory Team) flew the flag for the Aussies, finishing the 2021 Dakar as the best rookie and he came home in an impressive fourth-place overall in the Bikes.
The two other Australian riders, Michael Burgess (BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team) and Andrew Houlihan (Nomadas Adventure) finished the event in 27th and 50th overall.
In the Trucks, Sotnikov took his first Dakar win ahead of Kamaz – Master teammates Anton Shialov and Airat Mardeev. The 2021 Dakar marked Kamaz’s 18th crown over a 30-year period.
“It was the best race in my career,” Sotnikov said. “It was my dream and a lot of work, many years of work since my first Dakar in 2014 and finally we have won it!”
“I’m happy to drive this truck because it is the best truck in the world. We’re glad to continue our tradition of victory,” Sotnikov added.
So that’s it for the 2021 Dakar. If you want to drill further into the results take a look at Unsealed 4X4’s coverage over the past two weeks, or see the official Dakar website, and for the daily video wrap check out Red Bull TV or see this evening’s wrap-up from 1730 AEDT on SBS.