PEUGEOT won the iconic Dakar rally for the first time since 1990 with driver Stephane Peterhansel claiming his 12th Dakar Rally victory after a nerveless run through the final stage on Saturday.
The two-wheel title went to KTM-mounted Toby Price who became the first Australian to claim a Dakar title in any category.
The victory was Peterhansel’s sixth in the Dakar Rally’s car category, all of which have been alongside co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. He has also won six titles in the motorcycle division.
“It’s extraordinary. The pressure was very high but we came through,” Peterhansel (right) said. Crossing the finish line was a release after the extremely stressful last three days.”
“Some of my wins count more than others, but this one’s definitely in the top three. One thing’s for sure, getting the same number of victories on a bike and in a car was the last big goal in my career. Now that it’s done, I don’t think there are many things left to motivate me.”
Having been left with a massive one-hour lead as his Peugeot team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz encountered dramas during the second week, France’s Peterhansel had been able to control the race conservatively through the final days.
The concluding run back from Villa Carlos Paz was the same story, as Peterhansel came in seven and a half minutes slower than stage pacesetter Loeb to seal outright victory by 34m58s from last year’s winner Nasser Al-Attiyah in the lead X-raid Mini.
Al-Attiyah’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was a close second to Loeb on stage 13, following on from his maiden Dakar stage win on Friday.
He completed his first attempt at the event in fourth overall, between the Toyotas of 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers and Leeroy Poulter.
The big story of the 2016 Dakar had been Hirvonen’s former World Rally Championship nemesis Loeb’s form on his event debut.
The nine-time WRC champion led for most of the first week, before tumbling down the order following a crash and then a number of further tribulations when the rally moved into the dunes in its second half. Loeb eventually finished ninth.
Sainz looked like Peugeot’s most likely victor once Loeb was delayed, only to retire from the lead on Wednesday when a spacer between his car’s engine and gearbox broke.
Price, 28, won this year’s race just three years after a broken neck threatened his future in the sport. He dominated the contest, finishing 39 minutes, 41 seconds ahead of Slovakian team-mate Stefan Svitko.
He finished fourth in the 180km final stage in Argentina to clinch the victory, a 15th Dakar win in a row for Austrian maker KTM.
“Being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane,” Price said.
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to think… I’m in shock, I never would’ve thought I could win this race in my second participation.”
Peugeot completely redesigned the 2008DKR in an attempt to conquer the toughest rally in the world this year.
The engineers squeezed another 10 horsepower out of the 350hp twin-turbo diesel engine but also tweaked the torque curve to provide drivers with useable power throughout the rev range.
Then they turned their attention to the chassis making a slightly longer and wider with a a lower centre of gravity for more stability and shorter overhangs for extended scrambling ability.
The suspension was made more compliant for driver comfort and lighter wheels slung onto the four corners.