Cyril Despres battled his way through the early stages of the 2013 event, in which buggy, bike, quad and lorry drivers took on 8,500 kilometres of harsh terrain in South America, and managed to claim his fifth Dakar victory.
Riding a KTM, the Frenchman gained his second consecutive win in the rally, despite suffering a penalty after he was forced to change engines mid-way through the race.
“Of course every win at the Dakar is special but this one stands out for me because it is the first time I have been able to defend my title. Winning the Dakar two years in a row is rare and nobody has done it since Fabrizio Meoni ten years ago,” he said of the win.
Team Kamaz’s Eduard Nikolaev saw similar success in Dakar 2013, fending off all competition to win the truck category by more than 37 minutes. His victory was doubly special, as he is the first truck driver in the race’s history to win the competition without taking first place in any individual stages.
The Russian, whose career began as a mechanic, was joined by teammates Ayrat Mardeev in second place and Andrey Karginov in third.
Commenting on the win, Nikolaev claimed the full weight of the extraordinary feat has yet to sink in.
“All I have been concentrated on since we arrived in South America was fighting minute by minute over every kilometre I drove in our truck. To come out of that after such an intense fifteen days with the victory is something that I simply can’t put into words. It’s simply incredible and I’m on cloud nine right now,” he said.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers also managed an impressive performance, gaining second place in the buggy fixtures and finishing 43 minutes behind defending champion Stephane Peterhansel in his Toyota Hilux.
Unfortunately, a valiant effort in this year’s Dakar Rally proved fruitless for the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team, who were forced to bow out of the competition early.
The early stages saw the buggy team gain and hold a triumphant lead over their competitors. Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz wasted no time in making his mark on this year’s rally, hitting the fastest time on the 13km opening stage in Pisco and overcoming navigational issues to beat the pack and claim victory on day two. However, teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah – winner of the 2011 rally – was not content to let Sainz have all the glory – securing his two consecutive stage wins on days three and four.
Technical troubles plagued the team throughout Dakar 2013, forcing two-time World Rally Championship winner Sainz to drop out on day six. He was shortly followed by teammate Al-Attiyah, who bowed out of the competition on day nine due to a broken water pump.
However, the duo were not cowed by the experience and vowed to return for the 2014 event with their sights set on victory.
“Despite having such a short period of time to prepare we still managed to win five of the eight stages we completed. What we achieved at the 2013 Dakar with the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team was really remarkable and I’m so proud to have been a part of it,” Al-Attiyah said.
To find out more on the Dakar Rally, visit Red Bull’s site here: http://www.redbull.com/Dakar