Giniel de Villiers took the final stage victory of the 2018 Dakar Rally on Saturday for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, but Carlos Sainz Sr. took his second overall victory in Peugeot Sport’s final Dakar before they withdraw from the event.
Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz has been at the head of the field ever since the conclusion of stage seven, and despite finishing the final 119-kilometre stage down in ninth position, losing three minutes and nineteen seconds to de Villiers, he was comfortably clear of the pack in the final reckoning.
After losing second place on Friday, Stephane Peterhansel finished the final stage with the second fastest time, with the Peugeot Sport and Dakar legend ending forty seconds down on de Villiers, meaning the South African was able to maintain his edge on the Frenchman overall in third.
Nasser Al-Attiyah finished third on the day and second overall, but the Qatari racer ended forty-three minutes and forty seconds down on Sainz, with de Villiers a further thirty-three minutes and one second behind.
Lucio Alvarez and Peter van Merksteijn made it four Toyota’s inside the top five on the final stage, with Jakub Przygonski the leading of the X-Raid Mini’s in sixth, while Martin Prokop took his Ford to seventh ahead of Sebastian Halpern (Toyota), Sainz and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi (Peugeot).
Peugeot Sport will now bow out of the Dakar Rally with three victories in four attempts, while Sainz adds himself to the list of legends with multiple Dakar victories in an event that had twists and turns from start to finish.
Despite leading the Dakar Rally early on, Kevin Benavides took his first stage victory of the year on Saturday, but a conservative Matthias Walkner did all that he needed to do to claim KTM’s seventeenth consecutive victory in the event.
All the damage was done on Tuesday, when Walkner was one of only a few of the frontrunners not to get lost in the second half of the stage between Salta and Belen, and despite finishing five minutes and thirty-eight seconds down on Benavides on Saturday, the Austrian still cruised to victory by sixteen minutes and fifty-three seconds over the Argentine rider.
Monster Energy Honda Team’s Benavides finished Saturday’s final stage fifty-four seconds ahead of Australian Toby Price, who claimed third place overall for KTM, while his stable-mate Antoine Meo was third on the day to finish fourth overall.
Walkner only won one stage in the 2018 event, but after finishing as runner-up to team-mate Sam Sunderland last year, he has gone one better this time around to add his name into the history books as a Dakar winner.
Ignacio Casale recorded his fifth stage victory of the rally to secure a dominant victory, with the Yamaha rider ending one hour, thirty-eight minutes and fifty-two minutes clear of the chasing pack at the end.
The class victory had long looked like being Casale’s, and was classified at the head of the rally after each and every day, and the final day saw him finish one minute and twenty-one seconds ahead of Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano.
Nicolas Cavigliasso finished the day third fastest to consolidate his own position in second place overall, with the Argentine finishing the day seven seconds clear of Frenchman Axel Dutrie, while Jeramias Gonzalez Ferioli was fifth to end the rally in third place overall, albeit two hours, eight minutes and fourteen seconds behind Casale.
Casale is now a double Quad class race winner of the Dakar Rally, becoming only the third rider to win multiple events, with brothers Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli the only other riders to have won more than once.
Ton van Genugten took his fourth stage victory of the rally on Saturday, but Eduard Nikolaev took it conservatively to secure his second consecutive Trucks class victory and his third of his career.
Van Genugten took the stage win by eleven seconds over Martin Macik, with Dmitry Sotnikov three minutes and thirty-five seconds down in third, but Nikolaev’s fourth place with co-driver Evgeny Yakovlev and mechanic Vladimir Rybakov secured the overall win, with the Russian trio finishing three hours, fifty-seven minutes and seventeen seconds to the good ahead of Siarhei Viazovich.
Airat Mardeev ended the rally classified in third despite finishing the final stage sixth fastest behind Dutchman Gert Huzink, but the Russian ended up five hours, twenty-two minutes and thirty-four seconds down on Nikolaev.
The final day of the 2018 Dakar Rally saw a first stage win for Argentine Leo Larrauri, while second place was enough for Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin to claim overall victory.
Larrauri was eight minutes and four seconds faster on the day in his Can-Am ahead of Varela, with Frenchman Patrice Garrouste a further four minutes and nine seconds back in third, which confirmed the Polaris driver as the overall runner-up, albeit fifty-seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds back.
Claude Fornier clinched third place overall for Polaris with fourth place on the stage, with the Frenchman finishing just three minutes and fifty-five seconds clear of Jose Luis Pena Campo after the fourteen stages that started in Peru, went through Bolivia, and ended in Argentina.