The French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, in cars, and the Argentinean Kevin Benavides, in the motorbike category, have been proclaimed this Friday champions of the Dakar Rally in the 43rd edition of the event held in Saudi Arabia after maintaining their respective leaderships in the last special stage, a 200 kilometre route between the cities of Yanbu and Jeddah.
This is the fourteenth Dakar that Peterhansel has won, six of them on motorbikes and the remaining eight on four wheels. His victory also coincides with the 30th anniversary of his first title in the competition in 1991, when he was riding a Yamaha motorbike.
Monsieur Dakar' with his inseparable co-driver, Édouard Boulanger, had not lifted the title since 2017. Qatar's Nasser al-Attiyah and Spain's Carlos Sainz stole the victory in the last three editions. However, the Gaul has undeniably dominated this Dakar. He tied up the lead in the second stage and has not let go since.
The 55-year-old driver needed just one partial victory - in the ninth stage - to win the title. He has not even crossed the finish line in first place on this last day. He has shown a consistency that is within the reach of very few, and that he is in good shape for future challenges.
The Spanish driver Carlos Sainz was the fastest in this last stage. The until now reigning champion has redeemed himself from his difficult participation in this edition being the fastest in crossing the finish line in Jeddah, where he started the race ten days ago, with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 33 seconds.
The three-time Madrid champion has a bad taste in his mouth in spite of having managed to occupy the final podium and three partial victories. Together with his co-pilot Lucas Cruz they finished third in the general classification more than an hour behind the leader in spite of the great difficulties they have suffered with navigation and punctures.
The second position in the general, 14:51 from Peterhansel, is for Nasser al-Attiyah, who has not had enough of his five stage victories and second place on the last day. The Qatari driver and sheikh complained about the conditions: "The organization has to reflect because the rules are not fair, we must make them more equal for everyone. The Qatari believes that the rules favour two-wheel drive cars.
In the motorbike category, Kevin Benavides has won his first title in the competition after five editions of the Dakar. In 2018 he won a runner-up spot - his best result to date - but today, at 32 years of age, he has achieved the biggest win of his career and leads Honda's first double since 1987.
The Argentinean regained the lead in the penultimate stage and didn't let it slip away despite pressure from reigning champion Ricky Brabec, who was dreaming of keeping the title. The American driver won the last stage, but Benavides controlled the distance at all times and ended up winning with a 4:56 advantage over his teammate.
The podium was closed by the British rider Sam Sunderland, more than a quarter of an hour from the lead. Lorenzo Santolino was the first Spaniard in the classification. The pilot has finished sixth at almost an hour. In addition, the Spaniard Laia Sanz has finished the race in seventeenth position. Since her debut in 2011 she has always managed to finish, unlike the driver from Castellón, Joan Barreda, who was forced to retire after the penultimate stage.
The tragedy of this edition was the death of the French driver Pierre Cherpin. This was announced by the organisation in a press release published on the day. His death occurred last night, while he was being transferred to the hospital in Jeddah, from where his repatriation to Lille was planned.
The pilot's family said the probable cause of death was an "acute fever, possibly of cerebral origin, in the medical plane". They have reassured supporters that "Pierre did not suffer, either at the time of his fall or afterwards".
The French pilot, who is in the toughest category of the Dakar without the support of mechanics, was competing in his fourth race this year. Cherpin had an accident on the seventh stage, when he fell at kilometre 178. Health care then found the driver unconscious and urgently transferred him to a hospital in the Saudi city of Sakaka.