French veteran Stephane Peterhansel in Saudi Arabia yesterday celebrated a record-extending 14th Dakar Rally victory, his eighth in the car category, but the event’s conclusion was clouded by news of the death of French amateur rider Pierre Cherpin, who had been in an induced coma since he crashed on the seventh stage.
Peterhansel, a 55-year-old X-Raid Mini JCW driver nicknamed “Mr Dakar” for his unprecedented success, first won the endurance event on a motorcycle in 1991 and switched to cars after five more wins on two wheels.
Argentine Kevin Benavides, riding a Honda, became the first South American to win the motorcycle category after the 12th and final stage that ended in Jeddah.
The annual rally started in 1978 as a race from Paris to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, but moved from Africa for safety reasons in 2009.
It is now held entirely in Saudi Arabia after a stint in South America.
Peterhansel, who had led since the second stage, but won only one of the 12, finished 14 minutes, 51 seconds ahead of Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah, a three-time Dakar winner, in a Toyota.
Photo: AFP / ASO
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the defending champion and Peterhansel’s teammate, won the final stage and finished third overall.
In the motorcycle class, last year’s champion, Ricky Brabec of the US, won the final stage to finish runner-up to teammate Benavides and complete Honda’s first one-two Dakar finish since 1987.
Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner, finished third overall for KTM.
“On stage five I was worried, because I crashed so fast and hit my head and my ankle and felt a lot of pain. On that day I said maybe the Dakar is finished for m, but I continued pushing,” Benavides said. “I still have some pain, but at the moment I am more happy than in pain.”
Manuel Andujar made it an Argentine double with victory in the quadbike class.
Cherpin, who was 52, was the first fatality of this year’s event.
Two motorcycle riders died on the Dakar in January last year.
He died during a medical transfer to France after he crashed at 178kph on Sunday.
“During his transfer by medical plane from Jeddah to France, Pierre Cherpin died from the injuries caused by his fall,” the race organizers said in a statement.
Cherpin, who was competing in his fourth Dakar Rally, was found unconscious after his crash and taken to hospital in Sakaka before he was airlifted to Jedda.
After emergency neurosurgery, the entrepreneur and sailing enthusiast had been in an induced coma and was in a stable condition ahead of his transfer to Lille.
“I am an amateur, I don’t want to win, but to discover landscapes that I would never have had the opportunity to see otherwise,” he had said, according to the statement.
“Everything is exciting: riding the bike, living your passion, getting to know yourself.”
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