Volkswagen's turbo diesel technology completed a comprehensively successful title defence in the 2010 Dakar Rally, finishing 1-2-3 with WRC legend Carlos Sainz (bottom right) finally winning the most prestigious "raid"; in the world at his fourth attempt. In the motorcycles, Cyril Depres (top left) won his third Dakar Rally, after 9000 km across Argentina and Chile. He rode in triumph into Buenos Aires to complete his third Dakar victory and the tenth consecutive victory for Austrian brand KTM. Indeed, apart from Sainz and Quad bike winner Marcos Patronelli who finished second last year, all the winners were old hands. Yamaha dominated the Quads as usual with a 1-2-3, the "tsar"; (Russia's Vladimir Chagin) won the truck category for the sixth time, driving a Kamaz (bottom left). The rugged Russian Kamaz truck won EVERY stage in the 2010 event, finished 1-2 and picked up a ninth Dakar win.
If there was an unlucky participant in the 2010 event, it was Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has shown all the hallmarks of a superstar in recent years and after more than 45 hours of racing, finished just two minutes shy of one of the greatest drivers the world has ever seen.
For most of the last week the race has been between Sainz and Al-Attiyah as a trio of Volkswagen TDI powered Race Touareg prototypes careered away from the rest of the field. The third of the trio, American Mark Miller dropped a few seconds here and there to the leading two, and at the end of the two week rally, he finished just half an hour behind the leading pair — in another year it would have been seen as a close result, but not so in comparison to the battle between Sainz and Al-Attiyah.
Last year's winners Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) finished seventh.
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen explains: "Three weeks ago a highly motivated Volkswagen team came with the goal of successfully defending the 'Dakar' title won last year. Volkswagen has achieved something historical with this one-two-three. We are not only unbeaten in South America, we are also the only manufacturer to have won the world's hardest rally up to now with diesel technology. The Volkswagen drivers fought amongst themselves for victory all the way to the chequered flag — sometimes by hard but fair means. This is exactly how we imagine motorsport to be. My congratulations therefore go to every Volkswagen duo who would all have been worthy winners."
The Wolfsburg based brand therefore remains the only manufacturer to have won the car category of the Dakar Rally with diesel power. TDI technology was already dominant in 2009 in Argentina and Chile. In addition to the efficiency of the Volkswagen Group's diesel direct injection technology the Race Touareg's reliability was the key to the 2010 "Dakar"; victory. The powerful 300 hp Race Touareg won seven of 14 possible stage victories and eleven days in the lead were credited to the four-wheel drive racers from Wolfsburg.
The result of the rally kept observers and fans alike on tenterhooks up to the finish line: Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz, Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk and Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford led in this order since the fifth Dakar Rally stage. However, at no point did any driver duo have an unassailable lead.
In a strong final burst Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk edged ever closer, repeatedly taking seconds from their Volkswagen team mates Sainz/Cruz and, in doing so, staged an open and hard but fair duel for the leading position. The Qatari/German duo made up ground specifically in the dune sections — which once again formed one of the "Dakar's"; core elements — while the Spanish duo Sainz/Cruz controlled proceedings on the fast, twisty gravel sections.
As varied as the fight in the overall standings was — two stage wins went to Sainz/Cruz, four to Al-Attiyah/Gottschalk, one to Miller/Pitchford —, so challenging proved the 32nd running of the Dakar Rally: In addition to the varied stages across soft, in part powder-like sand and through towering and endless dune fields of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile there were also gravel sections and tracks through enormous boulder fields on the agenda.
The multi-faceted acid test with its terrain changing several times a day, two Andes crossings, passages through the world's driest desert, the Atacama, as well as parts of the legendary Pampa was mastered brilliantly by the Volkswagen Race Touareg. One Race Touareg was always found in the top-three of each stage at the finish, 27 of a possible 42 top-three positions on the 14 stages went to Wolfsburg.
For the new "Dakar"; champions Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz a winning streak continued in front of millions of fans lining the daily stages in Argentina and Chile. As newly formed duo in the Volkswagen Race Touareg the Spanish pair remained unbeaten in their third competition together and secured a new superlative in "Dakar"; history: Never before have two Spaniards won the legendary desert rally's automobile category.
Sainz/Cruz had previously won the Rallye dos Sertões in June and July 2009 as well as the Silk Way Rally in September 2009.
The Volkswagen statistics in cross country rallying make for equally impressive reading: The Wolfsburg based brand is unbeaten since January 2009 and with its second "Dakar"; triumph since 2009 continues the Volkswagen Group's success story with TDI technology:
After Audi's Le Mans victories between 2006 and 2008 and winning the World Touring Car Championship with SEAT in 2008 and 2009, Volkswagen has been successful at the "Dakar"; in 2009 and 2010 thanks to TDI Power.
Final standings - cars
1 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 1h 20m 18s (2) 47h 10m 00s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 1h 19m 42s (1) + 2m 12s
3 Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 1h 21m 21s (5) + 32m 51s
4 Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-P. Cottret (F/F) BMW X3 CC 1h 20m 50s (4) + 2h 17m 21s
5 Guerlain Chicherit/Tina Thörner (F/S) BMW X3 CC 1h 20m 25s (3) + 4h 02m 49s
6 Carlos Sousa/Matthieu Baumel (P/F) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 1h 25m 31s (15) + 4h 31m 45s
7 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 1h 21m 23s (6) + 5h 10m 19s
8 Robby Gordon/Andy Grider (USA/USA) Hummer 1h 21m 40s (7) + 6h 02m 24s
9 Orlando Terranova/Pascal Maimon (RA/F) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 1h 22m 10s (8) + 6h 04m 47s
10 Guilherme Spinelli/Filipe Palmeiro (BR/P) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 1h 24m 50s (13) + 6h 13m 41s
The motorcycles once again saw a predictable result, with a French-born Cyril Despres giving the Austrian-made KTM brand its tenth consecutive victory.
Despres, who completed the final stage, a total ride of 707 km with a timed special of 206 km of fast track riding to finish the stage in a comfortable eighth place. He was five minutes 05 seconds behind the winner of the day, rather fittingly, his KTM support rider Rubin Faria of Portugal. Despres, who also won in 2005 and 2007 when the rally was staged across Africa, was one hour 02' 52" minutes in front after completing the immense distance and endless challenging terrain, including four stages in Chile's Atacama Desert.
An emotional Despres said after the event, "All victories are nice but this one is particularly beautiful. "It is the victory of hard work, of expertise and of an incredible team. There are nine of us in the team and not one of us ever let go. We all wanted to win; we all wanted to fight hard and we won. It's just fantastic. Of course there is a lot of emotion." Despres whose racing career has had its setbacks, injuries and a constant battle with his arch rival, fellow KTM rider Marc Coma of Spain said he was genuinely moved by the victory. "I am human," he said "I know I have been riding this bike for 15 days and I am exhausted but the little strength I had left just went in tears. KTM played a big part in this victory. They trusted us. We chose everyone. We have been working 24/7 for months. One thing is clear; I was not afraid of losing. I just wanted to win. And this will to win was stronger than the fear of losing. It was a tough Dakar, a beautiful Dakar and I am so glad I won."
Marc Coma, Despres' eternal rival in the KTM camp, finally finished in 15th place after penalties put him out of contention. But he still had four stage wins to his credit and, penalties aside, his actual riding time was remarkable close to that of Despres, proof enough that the two KTM riders are in a class of their own in international rally competition. The result was all the more remarkable because both Despres and Coma had to ride with air restrictors on their KTM 690 rally machines, to reduce the performance down to the level of a 450 cc bike, since the middle of 2010, the new standard for racing the Dakar.
Final standings - bikes
The 2010 was yet another triumph for KTM, the Austria manufacturer whose sports machines play such a dominant role in international offroad competition. KTM first won the Dakar Rally in 2001 and has been undefeated ever since. Six of those victories have come with either Despres or Coma at the handlebars and each has now won three Dakar titles.
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (2010 winner)
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM (at 1:02'52")
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, (at 1:08.34)
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
15. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
Russia's Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) won the truck category, 1h13'08 ahead of his teammate and countryman Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) and 10h43'20 ahead of Dutchman Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf). The "Tsar" has previously won Dakar in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
In the Quad category, Yamaha dominated the event, with a 1-2-3 plus fifth and sixth also. After finishing second in 2009, Argentine rider Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) won the 2010 Dakar finishing 2h22'59 ahead of his older brother Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha), and 5h 07'31 ahead of Spain's Juan Manuel "Pedrega" Gonzalez Corominas (Yamaha). Frenchman Christophe Declerck (Polaris) was fourth in the final standings 4'12 ahead of Polish rider Rafal Sonik (Yamaha).
Finally, in the sponsorship category, Austrian Energy Drink Red Bull should be due for some sort of prize, having sponsored the first three cars, the first two bikes and the first two trucks.