SANTIAGO: Stephane Peterhansel claimed a record fifth Dakar Rally drivers title on Saturday, and 11th overall of his career, while French compatriot Cyril Despres captured a fifth motorcycling crown.
Peterhansel, the champion on four wheels in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2012, as well as being a motorcycle winner on six other occasions, beat Ari Vatanen’s 25-year-old record of four auto titles on the gruelling endurance event.
“It’s a special moment 15 days of racing full of emotions and tension and, now, the pressure vanishes all of a sudden,” said Peterhansel, who was the favourite once former winners Carlos Sainz and Nasser al-Attiyah were forced to retire.
“This is the first time since I started racing in cars that we’ve finished a race without a single mechanical problem. This is the best car I’ve ever driven.
“It wasn’t an easy victory, because we knew the buggies (of Sainz and Attiyah) would be fast. But this situation enabled me to focus from the start of the race. I attacked to open up a gap between me and my rivals.”
Spain’s Nani Roma claimed the event’s last stage, and his fourth in 2013, as the 8,000km race ended with a 150km timed run into Santiago. Peterhansel, taking part in his 25th Dakar, eased through the final stage to take overall victory by 42min 22sec over South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota.