Sam Sunderland wins bikes for GasGas
Nasser Al Attiyah and Mattieu Baumel’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux has won the 2022 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. British rider Sam Sunderland took his second bike win for GasGas. American Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin stole as last gasp Side by Sides win and Argentine Francisco Contardo and Pablo Vinagre took the UTV win. Dmitry Sotnikov, Ruslan Akhmadeev and Ilgiz Akhmetzianov led home a 1-2-3-4 as Kamaz dominated the truck race. And Frenchman Alexandre Giroud’s Yamaha took the overall quad win.
Al Attiyah, Baumel Led for the Entire Two Weeks
Al Attiyah and Baumel led the 4,000 km two-week race across the Saudi Arabian Desert from start to finish. They won by 27 minutes from Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s BRX Hunter. Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr’s Hilux was third from Orlando Terranova and Daniel Carreras’ Hunter. SA Gazoo Racing heroes, Giniel de Villiers and Denis Murphy made it three SA Hiluxes in the top five. SA crews, Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century stole 14th from Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen’s Hilux on the final stage!
On two wheels, Sunderland took his second and KTM offshoot GasGas’ maiden win in a close duel throughout. Argentine Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda was second, 3 minutes 27 adrift from Matthias Walkner's KTM, Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren's Yamaha and Honda trio Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort Californian Ricky Brabec and Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo.
Andrew Short’s Yamaha was 8th from top bike rookie, Mason Klein and Toby Price’s KTM. South Africans, Aron Mare’s Hero ended 16th and Bradley Cox 25th on his KTM.
Lategan, Quintanilla Won Final Day
South Africans Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings closed the Dakar off in style for Toyota as they stormed to the final car stage win after fighting Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger’s mighty petrol electric Audi and Baragwanath and Cremer’s Century off in an epic finale. Quintanilla won Fridays bike race from Brabec, Price, Florimo and Barreda and Klein, with Sunderland ninth. Francisco Moreno took the quad stage.
Al Attiyah and Baumel’s Hilux took the advantage at the New Year’s Day Prologue and never looked back. Critically, they dodged any real problems throughout to deliver a perfect Dakar and score Nasser’s fourth, Mattieu’s third and the Proudly South African Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux's second Dakar victories. Perhaps surprisingly, Attiyah and Baumel only won two stages throughout. But they were only slightly outside of the top ten once in two weeks of racing.
Loeb and Lurquin were second for all but one day of the race. They won two stages and were second on another two, and only dropped to third on the second of two days they hit trouble. But that was enough to allow Attiyah to escape and leave the World Rally legend short of a Dakar win as he jets off to his next appointment at the Monte Carlo Rally. Al Rajhi and Orr delivered their best Dakar result in third after a consistent run without any real issues. Their best stage result was third on Day 6. Dakar consistency is king!
Giniel de Villiers’ Golden Dakar Record
Terranova and Carreras were sixteenth or better every day, broke into the top ten on day 5 and won a stage en route to Orlando's best ever fourth overall. Giniel has never been out of the Dakar top ten in any of the 19 Dakars he has raced. He and Murphy were taken out of the top 3 on a disastrous Day 7, but bounced back to win day 9 as they fought back to fifth overall. Consistency also favoured Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk’s rise to sixth overall for Mini. And his 7th top ten in 13 Dakar starts.
Vladimir Vasilyev and Oleg Uperenko’s BMW was also consistent, only once in the daily top ten, they finished seventh. Best-placed of the Kyalami-built Century CR6s, Mattieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier equalled Mattieu's Dakar best 8th place finish. They fought back from a first day disaster with a best fourth place on Day 5. Best of the Audis, Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergkvist won a stage to balance off their issues to end ninth, while another consistent crew, Sebastien Halpern and Bernard Graue’s Mini was top tenth.
For the rest, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz won two sages as they chased back to 11th, Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger one. Their petrol-electric Audi RS Q e-Trons shook off early issues to deliver ominous pace on debut with four stage wins on debut. Triple South African champions, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings were the only other car stage winners with double day wins, after they took up water carrying duty following early issues with their Proudly South African Hilux. They fought back to a provisional 32nd.
Baragwanath, Variyawa Both in Top 20
Outside the top ten, South African crews Baragwanath and Cremer’s SA built Century CR6 passed Variyawa and Stassen’s Gazoo Hilux for 15th in the final stage! Brian and Leonard had a troubled start and fought back from 44th on Day 1, Variyawa and Stassen has another consistent run as they rose from 29th to 14th. Chris Visser and Rodney Burke ran in the top ten on several occasions, but a difficult stage 8 dropped them down the order to end up a commendable 29th in their Century.
Cross Country regulars, Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne’s Century CR6 endured two tough days, but soldiered on to 38th. And a fine car rookie second overall. Fellow Century rookies, Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren had an incredible adventure to overcome a disastrous Day 3 as they came to grips with their brand new car to end 63rd. SA navigators, Taye Perry guided Dakar bike legend Cyril Despres’ Peugeot to 18th, while Ryan Bland read notes for Daniel Schroder to 36th in their SA-built Red Lined VK50
Both Toyota and Hunter clearly benefited Dakar’s new fat tyre, long travel suspension T1+ rules. As well as the Toyota’s switch from V8 to turbo V6 power. Toyota won four stages, Hunter three, as both teams endured far fewer punctures en route to the top five places. But the all-new Audis also won four stages as they grew in stature through the race to deliver ominous petrol-electric pace. They will be significant rivals in future. Century however slipped, in part thanks to their rivals’ 4x4 rule breaks. Time for a turbo V6, perhaps?
GasGas Came, Saw & Conquered the Bikes
Moving over to the bikes, GasGas came, saw and conquered. But that was easier said than done as Dakar once again delivered wildly varying day to day results. The top riders home on one day were inevitably severely compromised on the next, and two different groups of riders inevitably emerged in front, every second day. GasGas rider Daniel Sanders won the opening two stages, before teammate Sunderland moved ahead to lead through to Day 6. He dropped back to fifth after a tough day 7, before fighting back.
The overall lead then changed daily as Sunderland, Mattias Walkner and Adrien van Beveren took turns out front. But a tough eleventh day saw Sunderland emerge on top from Pablo Quintanilla, Walkner, van Beveren, Barreda and Ricky Brabec. Sunderland went on to take his second and GasGas' maiden Dakar wins. He only one won stage on Day 8, benefiting his low starting order.Honda teammates Barreda, Jose Flormino and Sanders each won two stages, and Hero rider Joaquin Rodriguez, KTM men Price, and Benavides and Quintanilla one each.
MotoGP refugee rookie Danilo Petrucci spectacularly won a day too, ahead of Botswana hero Ross Branch. Ross crashed the following day and bravely rejoined the day after, but opted to stop a day later. South African Aron Mare only found out he’d substitute Hero rider Franco Caimi a week before the start. Still, he started off in the top 10 and ran within the top 20 throughout to end up a creditable 16th overall on his second Dakar.
Rookie Cox Impressed
SA Cross Country champion, Dakar rookie Bradley Cox teased the top ten throughout the first week, but a tough break after damaging his bike and struggling home on day 9 dropped him out of the top 20. He soldiered on to finish 24th and third among the rookies on debut. Four Southern Africans raced in the no assistance Original class. Rookie 2020 SA OR1 Cross Country champion Charan Moore had a consistent run within the top 40 throughout to 34th overall, 8th among the rookies and fourth and top rookie in Original.
Botswana rider John Kelly delivered a consistent performance to rise from 62nd to 46th overall through the two weeks of Dakar. He ended seventh and second rookie home in Original. Ever popular SA rider Stuart Gregory was 65th overall and a fine 13th in Original. Another SA rookie, Werner Kennedy picked up places daily to climb from 111th to 88th overall and 22nd in Original. Swazi rider Werner Terblanche started 113rd and finished 81st. Mozambican Paulo Oliveira heartbreakingly retired on the penultimate day.
Frenchman Alexandre Giroud survived to take the quad victory. He moved ahead on Day 5 and stayed there to take an easy win. Most rivals retired to leave Argentine Francisco Moreno and Pole Wisniewski to pick up the pieces in second and third among the nine finishers. Argentine Francisco Contardo and Pablo Vinagre took an easy UTV win from Sebastian Eriksson and Wouter Rosegaar and Cristina Gutierrez and Francois Cazalet. SA Cross Country regular, Dubai's Thomas Bell and Bruno Jacomy ended 8th.
Dakar: Where to Now?
It was far tighter in the Side by Sides as American Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin stole the win from Spaniards Gerard Farres Guell in the final stage, with Poles Marek Goczal and Szymon Gospodarczyk third. SA crew Geoff Minnitt and Siegfried Rousseau retired after a crash on Day 6. Last but not least, Kamaz uttely dominated the trucks as Russian crews Dmitry Sotnikov, Ruslan Akhmadeev and Ilgiz Akhmetzianov led home a 1-2-3-4 from compatriot drivers Eduard Nikolaev, Anton Shiboliev and Anrey Karginov.
409 machines started the Dakar including 89 cars, 144 motorcycles, 95 UTVs and Side by Sides, 20 quads and 56 trucks. 73 cars, Two weeks later, 84 cars, 124 bikes, nine quads, 82 lightweight vehicles and 50 trucks remained, although several competitors took advantage of new joker rules to rejoin this year.
Dakar 2022 however raced under a cloud amid French government calls to can the event following an alleged terrorist bomb blast that hurt a French competitor before the race on the first morning. That may well call Saudi Arabia’s future as Dakar's host, leading to speculation about where, exactly the 2022 race may happen. Southern Africa, perhaps? Now would a Dakar through South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Namibia be a New Year’s treat. That is merely speculation. But pretty cool speculation at it...