Al-Attiyah, Coma win Dakar Rally

Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar claimed his first Dakar Rally title
and Marc Coma of Spain won the motorbike event for the third time
on Saturday.

Al-Attiyah finished second in the 13th and final stage as
Volkswagen swept the podium to finish the two-week event.

”We did it,” Al-Attiyah said. ”I am so happy.”

Carlos Sainz of Spain, the 2010 champion, won the stage by 38
seconds to hold onto third overall.

South African Giniel de Villiers was second overall, 49 minutes,
41 seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Sainz finished 1:20:38 back.

In bikes, Coma was fifth in the final stage, 2:16 behind winner
Frans Verhoven of Belgium. Coma on a KTM finished 15:04 ahead of
Cyril Despres in the overall. Helder Rodrigues of Portugal was
third, 1:40:20 back.

Al-Attiyah, who was second last year to Sainz, called the
victory ”the biggest moment of my career” and said would it help
put Qatar on the map.

”It means a lot to win a Dakar, for me, for my people, for my
country and for my team,” he said. ”It is a great victory. It’s
hard to explain everything that goes through your head. But it is a
very nice feeling. We demonstrated that we (Volkswagen) have the
strongest team in the world. It is the third time the team has won
a Dakar. … I think that now people will finally know where Qatar
is located.”

Al-Attiyah took the lead from Sainz by winning Monday’s eighth
stage in Chile’s Atacama desert. It pushed him five minutes ahead
of the Spaniard. Al-Attiyah clinched his victory when he won
Thursday’s 11th stage. Sainz crashed and broke his right front
suspension on the leg, which cost him more than an hour and any
chance for a repeat victory.

Al-Attiyah and Coma were all but ensured of victory going into
the final stage, but Coma said he couldn’t relax.

”What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down,
not even for a second,” the Catalan said. ”Truth is that with the
race and the permanent tension, I did not have time to think about
anything else in a long time.”

Coma, who won in 2006 and 2009, called this race ”particularly
difficult.”

”As anyone in the Dakar, we had tough times,” Coma said. ”So
I am going to get some rest and think about the future.”

Coma moved into the lead by winning the fourth stage, giving him
a narrow 2-second edge on Despres. The Frenchman was later
penalized 10 minutes on the stage for not following starting
procedures, leaving him 10:02 behind. He never recovered.

In quads, Argentine Alejandro Patronelli was the overall winner.
He finished 59:53 ahead of fellow Argentine Sebastian Halpern and
6:17:38 in front of Lukasz Laskawiec of Poland. Last year,
Patronelli’s brother Marcos won the overall title.

Official awards will be presented Sunday in Buenos Aires, which
is located about 120 miles from the finish. The rally left the
Argentine capital on Jan. 1.

Argentina officials said before the race they expected it to
return to Argentina next year. Some reports suggest a new route
next year with the possibility of including Brazil.

It’s the third straight year the rally has been run in South
America between Argentina and Chile. It was held in Europe and
Africa but moved after 2007 because of violence. There was no race
in 2008.

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