BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Carlos Sainz of Spain won the Dakar Rally in just over 47 hours, closely tailing his Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah in the final stage on Saturday.
Sainz finished 2:12 ahead of Al-Attiyah and 35:21 better than Mark Miller of the United States in the sweep for Volkswagen. They spent two weeks traversing the world’s toughest auto race through Argentina and Chile.
Al-Attiyah started the 14th stage trailing Sainz by 2:48 overall, and won the sprint from San Rafael to San Carlos de Bolivar. Sainz was 36 seconds behind in the final stage.
Sainz won the Dakar Rally on his fourth attempt.
“Today was a very special, special stage,” Sainz said. “I could not afford any mistakes. We had to master everything and control our emotions. But it has been like this for a week.”
A VW won for the second straight year. Stephane Peterhansel of France, a three-time car winner in a BMW, was fourth.
Cyril Despres of France won the motorcycle division with an overall time of 51:10:37. He finished sixth on his KTM in the final stage.
Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway was second overall, 1:02:52 behind.
Despres led the rally from the third stage, and finished sixth in the final stage.
Sainz crashed out last year while leading with two stages left, but this time he and navigator Lucas Cruz were patient, fast and mistake-free.
“A very, very important day for me,” Sainz said. “I won in Europe, in Spain, and today in the Dakar. I am really happy and relieved. We drove very fast, but we were clever, too.”
He’d led since the fifth stage and only Al-Attiyah of Qatar threatened to derail his chances. Al-Attiyah led the Dakar race early last year only to be disqualified for skipping part of the trail.
Sainz had two tire punctures Wednesday and lost more than half of his 10-minute lead. Al-Attiyah banged into the Spaniard’s car on Friday, but he ran out of stages.
Al-Attiyah won the 128-mile last stage — his third this year — in 1:19:42, followed by Sainz and Guerlain Chicherit of France in a BMW, just 43 seconds back.
“This morning I really went for it, but we knew the stage would be a long straight line,” Al-Attiyah said. “I am thrilled I won the stage, I really tried all I could.
“I’m happy for Carlos. He did his job, I tried to do mine. Next year, I’ll win.”