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


”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.