Nasser’s star rises
Qatari driver Al-Attiyah claims Dakar win for dominant VW
The 32nd Dakar Rally was won, for the first time, by a rally driver from the Arab world. Nasser Al-Affiyah (above right, with co-driver Timo Goffschalk), a former Olympic gold medallist clay pigeon shooter completed the 9618km route in 45hr 16min 16sec, just under 50 minutes ahead of Volkswagen team-mate Giniel de Villiers. Carlos Sainz, who won narrowly from Al-Affiyah in 2010 and led for most of this year’s rally, was third.
The Spaniard was near flawless, only finishing outside the top five on a stage once, but that one mistake cost him victory. On Stage 11, following the dust kicked up by team-mate Al-Affiyah, Sainz pitched his Touareg 3 into a hole, ripping off the rightfront wheel. He lost over an hour in repairs.
The main opposition to the Touaregs came from the BMW X3 of Stephane Peterhansel. Throughout the rally the two teams dominated, locking out the stage wins between them though only one went to the Frenchman. He spent much of the Chilean route being stalked by punctures, suffering four on a single stage.
The best Dakar stories are usually about those who don’t win, and that befell unlucky NASCAR star Robby Gordon, who struggled for grip in his two-wheel-drive Hummer. On Stage 2 he skidded, gaffing wedged on a boulder and, in a scene reminiscent of the David and Goliath parable, got some locals with a Fiat Panda to give him a tow. Then, en route to Stage 4, he suffered a wheel-bearing failure and was stranded. He missed the and was out of the rally. But he wouldn’t listen.
Instead of accepting defeat, Gordon completed the stage by night, only then deciding to plead his case with the organisers, to no avail. So he spent the of the week riding into every town the passed through, doing ‘donuts’ for the in his bright orange behemoth. Legend.