Relief, exhaustion and uncontrollable joy were the mix of emotions at the finish line of the 2018 Dakar Rally. After a 9,000-kilometre, two-week trip through South America every competitor reaching the end of the Dakar is a certified legend. As for the members of the Red Bull Desert Wings squad tasting victory, well those guys are above and beyond.
Take Carlos Sainz (ESP) of Team Peugeot Total for example. Already a titan of offroad racing thanks to two World Rally Championship titles plus a previous Dakar win before we even got started this year. ‘El Matador’ maybe in the final straight of his illustrious career but he showed he still has what it takes to pick up the big prizes. As the car category’s frontrunners slipped up one-by-one, Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) kept their cool to take first place and hold it for the entire second week of the Dakar. Sainz and Cruz’s victory represents the third consecutive Dakar win for Team Peugeot Total.
This is the hardest Dakar I’ve ever done and that includes the races I did in Africa. Carlos Sainz
Joining Sainz on the podium were the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crews of Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) and Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (GER). Nasser fought back from a tough first week of racing to make sure there was pressure on Sainz all the way to the finish line. This runners-up finish is the Qatari’s 6th overall podium of a Dakar career which includes two victories.
In the first week when we had so many problems I thought our chance to finish on the podium had gone. Nasser Al-Attiyah
A late charge up the general classification also saw De Villiers claim another podium finish, but that shouldn’t surprise us too much considering he now has a total of 12 Top 5 finishes at this event.
This has been a great way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Dakar. The race has been tough and so unpredictable. Giniel De Villiers
While we’re on the subject of highly-decorated Dakar contestants we have to mention 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and his co-driver Jean Paul Cottret (FRA). At the Rest Day Stéphane was in the lead and on course for win number 14, but a tough second week saw him finish up in fourth overall. Sainz and Peterhansel’s fellow Peugeot driver Cyril Despres (FRA) played his part in the French manufacturer’s victory as he came to the aid of his team-mates time and time again along with co-driver David Castera (FRA).
Unfortunately we lost our chance to win in the first week but after that we did what we could to make sure one of our team-mates would win. Cyril Despres
It’s also hats off to Kuba Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) who parked their MINI in fifth place overall. The result is Przygonski’s best ever Dakar finish in nine attempts spanning both the bike and car categories.
For me it was the toughest Dakar I have ever experienced. This is my 9th Dakar so I already knew something about this race, but this year it was something different. Kuba Przygonski
Could the Red Bull KTM Factory Team make it 17 consecutive Dakar bike race wins with another victory in 2018? They sure could! This time they have Matthias Walkner (AUT) in first place as the Austrian manufacturer celebrates an Austrian rider winning the Dakar.
This was a crazy Dakar with really, really tough navigation this year. Then we had the situation with so many riders so close together at the top of leaderboard. Matthias Walkner
Walkner is joined on the podium by team-mate Toby Price (AUS) who finished third overall, one place in front of fellow KTM rider Antoine Méo (FRA).
From where I was 12 weeks ago with my injury it’s quite incredible to be here at the finish line and standing on the podium. It’s not the step I would pick, but it’s not too bad all things considered. Toby Price
Elsewhere in the bike race we’re celebrating the achievements of Laia Sanz (ESP), the Spanish rider was a whisker away from securing her second Top 10 finish. Sanz maintains her proud record of completing every edition of the Dakar she has started.
My team was fantastic so thanks to them because my bike was great. I’ve started eight Dakars now and I’ve finished them all so that’s not a bad record to have. Laia Sanz
We’re also paying tribute to Daniel Nosiglia (BOL), Ivan Cervantes (ESP), Mohammed Balooshi (UAE) and CS Santosh (IND). No other category tests the body and mind quite like the bike contest at the Dakar and every rider crossing the finish line was given a hero’s welcome in Argentina.
We’ve never seen anything quite like how the truck race leaderboard looked with just two stages left to go. There was just one second separating Team Kamaz Master trucker Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) and Iveco driver Federico Villagra (ARG). Nikolaev had the fight his life on his hands if he was to win his third Dakar as a driver.
On the penultimate stage the decisive move was made as Nikolaev opened up a gap before Villagra was eventually forced to withdraw from the race. Nikolaev was cheered over the line by the Kamaz crew as he handed them their 8th Dakar win since the race came to South America 10 years ago.
I can never remember a situation in any category at the Dakar when there was just one second between the two first drivers with just two stages to go. I felt a lot of responsibility at this time to get the job done and I’m glad I was able to perform well. Eduard Nikolaev
There was no such drama in the quad race as Ignacio Casale (CHI) controlled the contest from start to finish. Never before in Dakar history have we seen a competitor win the opening stage and maintain that led until the finish line. The Chilean quad biker now has his second Dakar win as he adds to the title he won in 2014.
You need to keep your cool when you’re leading the race because it brings a different type of pressure. I had this for two weeks so I needed to use my head. Ignacio Casale
So that’s the 40th anniversary edition of the world’s toughest rally done and dusted. We’ve had no shortage of intense action on the route through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Rally-raid royalty continued to prove their reputations and a new batch of legends has emerged. We look forward to welcoming these brave competitors back to the Dakar in 2019.
Overall standings after stage 14 Cars
1. CARLOS SAINZ (ESP) PEUGEOT 49:16:18
2. NASSER AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA +00:43:40
3. GINIEL DE VILLIERS (ZAF) TOYOTA +01:16:41
4. STEPHANE PETERHANSEL (FRA) PEUGEOT +01:25:29
5. JAKUB PRZYGONSKI (POL) MINI +02:45:24
31. CYRIL DESPRES (FRA) PEUGEOT +45:19:10
Overall standings after stage 14 Bikes
1. MATTHIAS WALKNER (AUT) KTM 43:06:01
2. KEVIN BENAVIDES (ARG) HONDA +00:16:53
3. TOBY PRICE (AUS) KTM +00:23:01
4. ANTOINE MEO (FRA) KTM +00:47:28
12. LAIA SANZ (ESP) KTM +02:56:02
13. DANIEL NOSIGLIA (BOL) KTM +02:58:29
29. IVAN CERVANTES (ESP) KTM +09:42:54
32. MOHAMMED BALOOSHI (UAE) KTM +11:01:24
34. CS SANTOSH (IND) HERO +11:29:31
Overall standings after stage 14 Quads
1. IGNACIO CASALE (CHI) YAMAHA 53:47:04
2. NICOLAS CAVIGLIASSO (ARG) YAMAHA +01:38:52
3. JEREMIAS GONZALEZ FERIOLI (ARG) YAMAHA +02:08:14
Overall standings after stage 14 Trucks
1. EDUARD NIKOLAEV (RUS) KAMAZ 54:57:37
2. SIARHEI VIAZOVICH (BLR) MAZ +03:57:17
3. AYRAT MARDEEV (RUS) KAMAZ +05:22:34
Carlos Sainz: I’m extremely happy with the way things have gone at this Dakar. There are a lot of people behind this victory so I say a big thank you to all the members of Team Peugeot Total and to Red Bull and all our other sponsors. Also thanks to my co-driver Lucas and to all my family. When you have such a big lead it’s easy to lose concentration or start to go a little bit too slow. Keeping this under control was the big job during this second week. This is the hardest Dakar I’ve ever done, and that includes the races I did in Africa.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: Considering all the problems we had in the first week of this rally I think to finish in second place is a good result for us. I’m thankful for all the support from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA. Everybody was working so hard and I’m glad I could give the team this result as a way to say thank you. In the first week when we had so many problems I thought our chance to finish on the podium had gone. But we did a good job fighting back and second place is not bad.
Giniel De Villiers: When you come to this race you want to finish on the podium so we’re happy to be up there again. I think this is the toughest Dakar we’ve had in South America for sure. This has been a great way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Dakar. The race has been tough and so unpredictable. Exciting things have been happening on every stage and the leaderboard has changed so much. For Toyota to be two and three on the podium is fantastic and we say well done to Carlos who deserves his win.
Stéphane Peterhansel: It was a crazy Dakar. Lots of top riders were having crashes and suffering problems. We did two big mistakes ourselves and lost a lot of time. Our first problem was just before Uyuni and the second one came yesterday. If we add those two incidents up we lost about three hours. That’s too much time to lose if you want to win the Dakar.
Cyril Despres: This was a nice edition, starting from Peru. The Dakar needs desert, it needs dunes and open space and we found all this in Peru. We’ve been enjoying this Peugeot team spirit for four years now and it was in evidence again this time. Unfortunately we lost our chance to win in the first week but after that we did what we could to make sure one of our team-mates would win.
Kuba Przygonski: We’re so happy to be here at the finish. For me it was the toughest Dakar I have ever experienced. This is my 9th Dakar so I already knew something about this race, but this year it was something different. We had a good time inside the car with my co-driver Tom. We had no big issues with the car and we were able to keep a good rhythm throughout. I think we’re the youngest guys in the Top 10 so maybe we can keep improving in the future.
Matthias Walker: This was a crazy Dakar with really, really tough navigation this year. Then we had the situation with so many riders so close together at the top of leaderboard. I’ve never seen anything like that. I stayed focused on doing nothing stupid and tried my best to limit any mistakes. I didn’t go for big gains and I never really suffered any big losses and this ended up working out for me. In the final days I just had to block out the fact that I was getting closer and closer to winning the biggest event in our sport.
Toby Price: From where I was 12 weeks ago with my injury it’s quite incredible to be here at the finish line and standing on the podium. It’s not the step I would pick, but it’s not too bad all things considered. This Red Bull KTM Factory Team is one big family and it feel great to be here at the finish line celebrating once again.
Antoine Méo: It’s a big feeling of satisfaction to ride over the finish line. I’m still a little disappointed with the mistake I made with the navigation earlier this week. We were pushing so hard and that led to the mistake. But never mind, to be here now is great and to share the victory of my team-mate feels excellent.
Laia Sanz: I’m really happy to have finished this Dakar because it was really tough. Especially to finish in my position feels good to be so close to the Top 10. This feels like a good reward for all the hard work I do during the year. My team was great so thanks to them because my bike was fantastic. I’ve started eight Dakars now and I’ve finished them all so that’s not a bad record to have.
Daniel Nosiglia: I’m feeling very satisfied right now. To be here at the finish line of my second Dakar with my objectives fulfilled feels great. I’m very happy right now. The plan now is to rest a little bit after these intense couple of weeks. Then I’ll start to focus on the other races we have coming up this year.
Ivan Cervantes: What a feeling to be here at the finish line. I was feeling very sick at the beginning of the race and I wasn’t sure how far I would be able to go. Along the way I had a few mechanical problems, this was not a straightforward Dakar for me at all. To be here now makes me feel very proud and happy for the great team that has supported me all the way.
Mohammed Balooshi: I drove a slow last stage because it was all about getting to this finish line. The whole thing is still too big to understand. I was under so much pressure, riding with a broken bone and in pain every single day. It’s done now and it feels so good to have reached my goal of reaching the finish. The effort it takes just to finish this race is just incredible.
Eduard Nikolaev: This Dakar was very hard from beginning to end. Not only was the route extremely tough but we also so had so much competition between the trucks in our category. I’m thankful to my crew and to the team that we could all work together to deliver this win. I’m happy that we can give another winning result to our fans. I can never remember a situation in any category at the Dakar when there was just one second between the two first drivers with just two stages to go. I felt a lot of responsibility at this time to get the job done and I’m glad I was able to perform well.
Ignacio Casale: This was such a tough race and it’s unbelievable that things could go so good for me from the first stage onwards. You need to keep your cool when you’re leading the race because it brings a different type of pressure. I had this for two weeks so I needed to use my head a lot. Now
I’m over the finish line and have my second Dakar win it feels great. I’ve been looking for this second win for a lot of years now.
CS Santosh: Boy was this one tough Dakar. Every single stage was a big, big battle just to get to the line. There were plenty of ups and downs along the way. There were some incredible highs and also some low moments along the way. It was everything you envision a Dakar will have.