Al-Attiyah coasts to claim third Dakar Rally title

Nasser Al-Attiyah won his third Dakar Rally crown while Toby Price won his second motorbike title in a race that featured one last twist Thursday.

Price came to the 10th and final stage after racing almost 5,200 kilometers with only a one-minute lead over Pablo Quintanilla. Just 10 kilometers into the dune-heavy, 112-kilometer course from Pisco to Lima, Quintanilla fell off his bike and injured his foot.

The chances of winning a first Dakar evaporated instantly, but the Chilean got back on his Husqvarna to try to save a podium place. He lost 19 minutes, though, and dropped to fourth overall.

Al-Attiyah could sit back and play it safe thanks to a 51-minute lead overall. He let others race for the stage win, which went to Carlos Sainz, last year‘s champion.

Rolling in nine minutes later in his Toyota, Al-Attiyah won the Dakar by 46 minutes over Nani Roma, the 2014 champion.

After building a 51-minute lead over the previous nine stages, Nasser Al-Attiyah could take it easy while claiming his third Dakar Rally title. Ernesto Arias/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Runner-up to Sainz last year, Al-Attiyah regained the title he earned in 2011 and 2015, when he also won with French co-driver Mathieu Baumel.

“It‘s fantastic, no mistakes,” Al-Attiyah said. “The good thing was that from Day 3 we were leading, and we built on our time every day until we came to the last day with a big, big lead. We felt that a 100 percent Peru rally, with no other country, there would be a lot of sand dunes, so we could do what we know we‘re good at.”

Roma, who won two motorbike titles before switching to four wheels in 2005, was second after a busier-than-usual year of rallying to rebound from crashing out early in the Dakar last year. Sebastien Loeb, who was in title contention until electrical problems Monday, was third at his fourth Dakar.

After Quintanilla crashed, Price won the final stage, his first of this Dakar.

Price broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist before the Dakar and went for broke on Tuesday to take the overall lead.

“The pain and torture has been worth it,” Price said. “[The pain] feels like there are about five people driving a knife in my wrist. It‘s not very comfortable. It‘s not very enjoyable.

“It‘s very crazy to sit here and say that we won the Dakar Rally with no stage victories until today. It‘s really crazy. I‘m over the moon.”

Defending champion Matthias Walkner, only six minutes behind overall, threatened early but faded and arrived two minutes behind in third.

Walkner was second overall, nine minutes behind, and Sam Sunderland was third, 13 minutes down.

Sunderland was penalized an hour before the stage Wednesday for deliberately causing an electrical fault in his navigation tracker Tuesday so he wouldn‘t have to open the way. But the Briton won his appeal to finish only his second Dakar in six attempts. The other was winning in 2017.

The top three rode KTMs, which won an 18th successive motorbike class.