Cordoba – Buenos Aires
After two weeks on one of the hardest races on earth the surviving riders and drivers of the 2011 Dakar Rally had just 181km of racing stage between them and the end of the rally, back where it all began on New Year’s Day in Buenos Aires. In spirit perhaps more of a parade than the hard fought special stage the short stage lent itself to a more relaxed day with few position changes, though the Dakar Rally had a cruel blow to lend to one of the top bikers and a final battle for the podium that went all the way to the Argentine capital.
Bikes: Verhoeven Takes The Final Stage
The short stage was always likely to see stage times bunched to together and swaps of the lead even over the course of the very short day, and so it proved to be on the bikes. The stage ended with the top four bikers covered by less than a minute with Frans Verhoeven taking his first victory of the 2011 event at the last attempt, his BMW crossing the line just four seconds faster than the Yamaha of Helder Rodrigues.
Jean de Azevedo took a surprise third place on the stage, easily his best stage result of the Rally, but it was behind him the celebrations centred.
Champion elect Marc Coma was leading the way on the road, holding a sixteen minute lead over Cyril Despres, who would be the next rider unleashed onto the final stage two minutes later. The chances of Coma losing his advantage were slim and Despres could only keep pace with him through the stage. Despres would win the final battle between the pair, his stage time 92 seconds better than Coma’s but only enough to chip the lead minutely back to 15m04.
“This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days,” said Coma. “It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years. I have to pay tribute to all the people in my team, who supported me. We had ambitious goals and to reach them we had to have the best, people made for the Dakar and willing to all work towards the same goal. As anyone in the Dakar, we had tough times.”
The continued rivalry between the two – and Coma’s win – put both of them now on three Dakar wins each.
There was, however, late disappointment for Francisco Lopez Contardo. Having sat in third overall since the fourth stage the bottom step of the podium would have prepared for the Chilean, and ‘Chaleco’ was ready to take that step until just 22km from the end of the rally.
When the suspension on his Aprilia gave in.
Time ticked away and even though Aprilia stablemate Alain Duclos was able to tow a forlorn Lopez across the line the rescue and retrieval had taken 29 minutes too long, the final step on the podium going to Rodrigues.
Quads: Last Minute Laskawiec
Aside from the dominance of the overall standings by Alejandro Patronelli it is easy to make the case that the man of the quads in the second week of the Dakar has been Pole Lukasz Laskawiec.
Before the final stage he had recorded six consecutive top five stage finishes and moved from tenth overall to fourth when he took the start of the stage. Among those six results he had not yet won a stage, but that changed by the time he reach Buenos Aires as the charging Laskawiec took one final place in the overall standings to end his first Dakar third in class.
The stage – and the battle for third – was between Laskwiec and Christophe Declerck. The Frenchman was tasked with opening the stage on his Polaris, and from the first of the time waypoints he was losing grounf to Laskawiec, well on his way to the stage win even at half way. The final margin of 4m30 was more than enough to overturn the advantage Declerck began the day with.
Third on stage was Alejandro Patronelli, on his way to a coronation at Buenos Aires with an hour’s lead. His ‘nearest’ challenger – Sebastian Halpern – closed out his Dakar fourth on stage with Rocha Sergio la Fuente fifth.
Cars: Unlucky Seven For Sainz
Contrarily Carlos Sainz is the most successful man on the 2011 Dakar Rally, as he picked up his seventh stage win of the year on the final stage. However, the champion’s laurels went to his Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah, who easily held onto his significant advantage over the final stage, ending the day just 38 seconds behind Sainz on the stage.
The final stage – like all those that went before was dominated by the VW Touaregs and BMW X3s of the leading team’s. Krzysztof Holowczyc was the sole member of the X-Raid team of BMWs to finish in the stage top five, surrounded by the fleet of four Touareg’s – Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller fourth and fifth, the former holding onto the second place he inherited after Sainz’s misfortune on stage eleven.
“We did it,” said an ecstatic Al-Attiyah. “I am so happy! We drove a good, clean stage. I was just thinking about the finish line. It means a lot to win a Dakar, for me, for my people, for my country and for my team. It is a great victory. It’s hard to explain everything that goes through your head. But it is a very nice feeling. We demonstrated that we have the strongest team in the world. It is the third time the team has won a Dakar. It is also the biggest moment in my career. I think that now people will finally know where Qatar is located.”
Sainz was pragmatic in defeat; “Before racing a Dakar, you know it will be tough. All Dakar raids are tough. It’s like that. No, I am not disappointed. This is how the race goes.”
Stephane Peterhansel – a man who’s Dakar has been dogged by bad luck (mostly in the form of punctures) – finished the stage sixth to hold fourth overall.
Guilherme Spinelli was again the best man from outside the two top teams, ending the stage seventh and the rally ninth, missing out on the ‘best other’ honour overall to eighth place Christian Lavielle and his Nissan.
Trucks: Chagin Leads The Kamaz Convoy
Was there ever a doubt that a Kamaz driver would win the truck class? A lead that swapped back and fourth Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov ended in the possession of Chagin, though the final stage win went to Kabirov who finished the Rally 30 minutes adrift of his team leader.
“The last stage was very fast but I spent it in the dust and there was not much to do,” explained Kabirov. “Anyway, my chances to win had been wiped out a few days ago when I lost a lot of time. But I am not disappointed; what a joy, because we have three Kamaz trucks in the first three positions in the standings. Moreover, I also know that Vladimir Chagin is faster than me. He completely deserves this new victory.”
The Kamaz crews shared the final stage podium with German Franz Echter, who finished fifth overall, less than a minute from breaking up the leading Kamaz quartet.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage Thirteen Results:
1 Frans Verhoeven (BMW) in 1:25m07
2 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0:00m05
3 Jean de Azevedo (KTM) +0:00m19
4 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:00m44
5 Marc Coma (KTM) +0:02m16
1 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) in 1:35m00
2 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +0:04m11
3 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0:07m13
4 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:08m48
5 Rocha Sergio la Fuente (Yamaha) +0:16m14
1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 1:16m08
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:00m38
3 Krzysztof Holoczyz (BMW) +0:01m25
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:01m58
5 Mark Miller (VW) +0:02m02
1 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) in 1:33m25
2 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0:01m15
3 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:02m02
4 Marcel van Vliet (MAN) +0:02m20
5 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +0:03m45
Final Overall Standings
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 51:25m00
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:15m04
3 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1:40m20
4 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +2:09m45
5 Juan Pedrero Garcia (KTM) +3:07m03
1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 63:49:47
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:59m53
3 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) +6:17m38
4 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +6:18m30
5 Sebastian Copetti (Yamaha) +7:14m59
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 45:16m16
2 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:49m41
3 Carlos Sainz (VW) +1:20m38
4 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +1:43m48
5 Krzysztof Holoczyz (BMW) +4:11m21
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 48:28m54
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:30m04
3 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +3:20m17
4 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +5:44m56
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +5:45m57