Al-Attiyah, Coma win Dakar Rally
BARADERO, Argentina (AP) 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.
Vladimir Chagin of Russia won a record seventh truck title.
Al-Attiyah's credentials were impressive, with six various championships in classic and cross-country rallying since 2008 alone. But until this year, the Dakar had been a mainly frustrating experience. In 2009, Al-Attiyah had to pull out when his engine overheated on the sixth stage while he held an overall lead of more than 20 minutes. Then last year, he chased Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz all the way to the end, losing by only 2 minutes in the closest Dakar finish ever.
This year, he overtook Sainz on Monday in the Atacama Desert and held his nerve and the overall lead to the finish line, calling the victory "the biggest moment of my career."
"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 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.
"I am not disappointed," said Sainz, a two-time world rally champ. "This is how the race goes. After two tough weeks, there is nothing left to say. I gave it my very best shot."
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.
Updated January 15, 2011