QIDDIYA, Saudi Arabia – Spanish driver Carlos Sainz (Mini) won his third Dakar on Friday by keeping his advantage over Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota) and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel (Mini), in the last timed sector of the rally.
“It’s been a very difficult rally from the start. Only us three know how hard we tried since the first day. It’s been a full steam rally since the beginning,” said Sainz after completing his last timed sector.
The Spaniard told press he was “very happy” to add a third Dakar victory to the ones he won in 2010 and 2018 and said there was “a lot of effort and training” behind the triumph.
At 57, he has become the oldest driver to win the competition.
Sainz dedicated his victory to his co-pilot Lucas Cruz, his team and his supporters.
Al Attiyah and Peterhansel completed the podium with their second and third position in the competition.
Sainz almost had it in the tenth stage, one of the most complicated of the rally, where he took advantage of Al Attiyah and Peterhansel’s mistakes- they both went the wrong way- setting a big difference between himself and his competitors.
Al Attiyah won the twelfth and final stage, the only one he was able to win in the entire competition, controlled mainly by Mini with Sainz and Peterhansel, who brought eight victories to their team.
The French pilot had to settle for third place despite trying to snatch Al Attiyah’s second place. They only had a six-second difference before the last stage.
However, Peterhansel was the first to leave with Al Attiyah taking advantage of his tracks just behind.
Al Attiyah, winner of the 2019 Dakar, started off as the main favorite but the Qatari had to work hard to stand up to Mini buggies, which improved their performance in comparison to last year.
Fernando Alonso (Toyota) finished the stage in third place and was 3 minutes and 25 seconds away from Al Attiyah’s time, which stripped him of closing his Dakar debut with a stage victory.
It is the second time Alonso finishes a stage of the Dakar among the first three, after being second in stage 8, which confirmed that with his Toyota Hilux he is able to keep up with the rally’s fastest.
The Formula 1 champion finished with notable performances, only tarnished by two bad days that have left him out of the top ten overall.
In the second stage he spent two and a half hours repairing the structure of a broken wheel after hitting a rock in the middle of a cloud of dust and in the tenth stage his car flipped making him lose almost another hour to change some car parts.
It was a Dakar where unknown names also shone.
Lithuanian driver Vaidotas Zala won the inaugural stage, and French Mathieu Serradori won the eighth stage with a practically self-made car.
The Dakar 2020 took place entirely in Saudi Arabia with twelve stages from January 5-17 and a route of almost 8,000 kilometers, of which more than 5,000 were timed, leaving in Jeddah, the second largest city in the country, and arriving in Qiddiya, a large leisure city in the outskirts of the capital Riyadh.
The race had a very technical and dusty first week through hard tracks, rock canyons and mountainous roads in the north and the center of the Arabian Peninsula, followed by a much faster second week in open deserts and some dune sectors in the South of the country.