Saturday’s 64km timed special stage between Rio Cuarto and Buenos Aires concluded Dakar Rally 2017 and its 9,000km route through South America.
Stéphane Peterhansel edged Sebastien Loeb overall (+5’13) to take his Dakar victory No 13 with their Team Peugeot Total teammate Cyril Despres in third (+33’28). Three Frenchmen and three Peugeot 3008 DKRs occupy the podium*, with only Carlos Sainz missing after he crashed and was forced to retire during the first week of racing.
Loeb did win Saturday’s short stage 19 seconds ahead of the overall leader, with Giniel de Villiers, Toyota’s South African driver, in third place (+0’30).
“We were fighting with six or seven drivers at the beginning of the race and after a while, they were only four,” said Peterhansel at the finish line. “And during the last week, we were only two – just Seb and I. We fought really strongly and I am the winner in the end – but it’s a small detail. This is the victory of experience.”
Sam Sunderland made history by finishing the last special in sixth place to take the overall win. The first Briton to win the Dakar, he claims the rally ahead of KTM teammate Matthias Walkner (+32’00”) and Gerard Farrés (+35’40).
Both Sunderland and Walkner had never finished the infamous rally before. The duo made up for Tony Price’s abandon, their teammate and defending champion who retired after crashing and breaking his leg on Stage 4.
“It’s overwhelming,” admitted Sunderland. “When I crossed the line, the emotion really took over.
“It’s taken some time to change [from his motocross background], I’ve learned the hard way like everybody. I kept fighting and never gave up and I’m really grateful for all the people I have around me that have guided me. Everybody in the team has worked so hard, they all deserve this victory.”
Chilean rider Ignacio Casale claimed the closing stage, beating local boy Santiago Hansen by 52 seconds. This enables him to take second place in the final general classification (+1h14’51) behind Sergey Karyakin, the dominant winner of the race, with Pablo Copetti in third (+4h20’19).
Eduard Nikolaev was already assured of winning his second Dakar but the Kamaz driver confirmed his domination with another victory on Saturday. His teammate and fellow Russian Dmitry Sotnikov (+18’58)gives Kamaz the runner-up position in the general. Gerard de Rooy takes the third overall spot (+41’19).