QIDDIYA: Carlos Sainz of Spain celebrates at the end of the 12th stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday.—AP
QIDDIYA: Carlos Sainz of Spain celebrates at the end of the 12th stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday.—AP

QIDDIYA: Spaniard Carlos Sainz became a triple Dakar Rally champion with the Mini X-Raid team at the age of 57 on Friday while American Ricky Brabec took the motorcycle crown for Honda and ended KTM’s 18-year dominance.

Brabec is the first American to win the Dakar on two wheels since the gruelling endurance event started from Paris through the Sahara desert to the Senegalese capital in West Africa in 1979.

Both were also the first winners in Saudi Arabia, a country making its debut as host of an event staged in South America for the past decade.

Two times world rally champion Sainz, whose son and namesake races in Formula One for McLaren, ended the final timed stage with a six minute and 21 seconds advantage over Qatar’s defending champion Nasser Al Attiyah.

Al-Attiyah earned his first stage win of this Dakar but Sainz finished four minutes back in sixth to secure the car title beside his victories in 2010 and 2018. His three victories have been with different car manufacturers, the first coming with Volkswagen and the second in a Peugeot.

“I feel very happy. There’s a lot of effort behind this. A lot of training, practice,” Sainz told the race’s website.

“It has been a flat out rally since the beginning. It was fantastic, a first time in Saudi Arabia, of course you can always improve but it was a fantastic effort,” he added.

Asked about defending his title next year Sainz said: “It’s too early to think about it, let me enjoy this.”

Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner on two and four wheels and Sainz’s team-mate, completed the top three in his 31st Dakar.

Two times Formula One champion Fernando Alonso, a Dakar rookie, was fourth in the final stage and finished 13th overall for Toyota.

Brabec had started four previous Dakars but Friday was only his second finish.

“At the end, we put the pieces to the puzzle together,” said the American after an event marred by the death of Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves in a fall last Sunday.

“I woke up this morning just happy to ride the last day. And we’re here. We won. We had to be smart and focused every day. There’s no top guy on the team, we all work together, we’re a family. We all won.”

Australian Toby Price, the 2019 motorcycle winner and leading KTM rider, finished third overall behind Chilean Pablo Quintanilla.

In the truck category, Russian Andrey Karginov took his second Dakar crown in a Kamaz one-two with compatriot and team mate Anton Shibalov.

Chile’s Ignacio Casale was the quad champion for a third time while American Casey Currie won the lightweight side-by-side (SSV) category introduced in 2017.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020