Nani Roma won the Dakar Rally after an anticlimactic 13th and final stage during which team orders guaranteed the Spaniard would finish first on Saturday.
Stephane Peterhansel, the Dakar’s record 11-time winner and defending champion, began the race’s shortest stage of 157 kilometers with a 26-seconds lead but the Frenchman slowed down and even stopped to let teammate Roma roll first to Valparaiso.
The move ensured Roma, Peterhansel and third-place teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar followed controversial team orders from late Wednesday to freeze their positions to ensure a podium sweep.
Their Minis deliberately reached the finish line together and the sweep was achieved.
Ten years after winning the motorbikes race in North Africa, Roma became the third man to also win the Dakar in a car, after Peterhansel and Hubert Auriol.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Roma, who dedicated the win to former co-driver Henri Magne, who died in a race in 2006.
Victory for Roma and co-driver Michel Perin also meant they stayed unbeaten for a fifth straight rally.
Peterhansel said, “We had lots of fun driving but I’m frustrated with the final result. Nani’s my friend, and I’m pleased to see him happy because it’s been his dream for 10 years, since he shifted to a car.”
Another Spaniard, Marc Coma, won the motorcycle race a fourth time, finishing the rally which began in Argentina two weeks ago an hour, 53 minutes ahead of countryman and KTM teammate Jordi Viladoms. Olivier Pain of France was third, and two-time defending champ Cyril Despres fourth.
“I remember being unable to start last year’s race, and yet I’m here now, I’ve won,” Coma said. “I’m going to savour it. I don’t know if I’ll ever win it again.”
Coma took control of the race on the fifth stage, a long sandy run to Tucuman, Argentina, and avoided risks and watched his rivals fall away. His nemesis, Despres, experienced electrical trouble and fell out of contention on the same stage. But Despres worked hard to claw back from 12th to missing the podium by five minutes.
In his previous 10 Dakars, he’d won five times, and been runner-up four times. Fourth was his worst finish since 2001.
Coma added to victories in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Roma also hit the front on the fifth stage, but over the next week Peterhansel cut his lead from 39 minutes to two by Wednesday. That’s when their team boss, Sven Quandt, fearing a crash among his fearless leading drivers of Roma, Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah, told them to ease off and hold their order in the standings.
Peterhansel led after the penultimate stage on Friday only because Roma kept getting into trouble. But the drivers went back to following orders on Saturday, and Roma finished up “beating” Peterhansel by six minutes overall. Al-Attiyah was 57 minutes back in third.
Giniel de Villiers of South Africa, the Toyota driver who kept up a sustained resistance to the Minis’ domination, won the final stage and finished fourth, his seventh top-five finish.