SPANISH driver Nani Roma won the 2014 Dakar Rally, 10 years after he clinched the motorcycle title in the world’s most grueling racing event. This as his compatriot, Marc Coma of the KTM team, won the motorcycle title for the fourth time.
Roma, 42, overturned a 26-second overnight deficit on his Mini teammate and 11-time champion Stephane Peterhansel to take victory. Roma becomes just the third man to win the Dakar title on two and four wheels after Peterhansel and Hubert Auriol.
Giniel de Villiers of Toyota won the stage, which was the 13th and final one of the Dakar Rally that traversed more than 157 kilometers from La Serena to Valparaiso, Chile. Roma came in fourth place behind fellow Mini drivers Krzysztof Holowczyc and Vladimir Vasilyev.
His win came after a controversial two days when Mini insisted on team orders, which would have seen Roma, Peterhansel and 2011 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah complete a podium lockout for the car manufacturers’ title. But Peterhansel had managed to retake the lead after Roma suffered a puncture. It was unclear in the immediate aftermath whether or not the Mini drivers had received new instructions.
Peterhansel, six times a champion on two wheels and five times on four, took second place overall. Al-Attiyah, meanwhile, was left to rue the one-hour penalty he collected for missing waypoints on the 10th stage as he finished in third overall aboard another Mini—meaning the Dakar’s 2014 podium was dominated by Mini.
“I always had it in my head that I wanted to win in a car after winning the motorcycles,” said Roma, whose wife also took part in the race, competing in the motorcycle event. “I don’t know if this is the greatest stress I have experienced, but it was very tough. But 10 years after winning on a motorcycle, I have won in the cars. It’s a dream come true.”
For his part, Coma avoided any last-day misfortune to add the 2014 title to his motorcycle crowns taken in 2006, 2009 and 2011. The 13th and final stage in the bikes division was won by Cyril Despres on a Yamaha with Joan Barreda on a Honda in second and another Yamaha rider, Olivier Pain, in third. Coma, who had a near two-hour lead over the chasing pack going into the final day, came in 18th.
“This represents a lot of sacrifices,” said the 37-year-old Coma. “It was an extreme course with some good moments and some hard times. Every time I have won this rally, I have said I will savor the moment as I don’t know if I am going to win again.”
Another Spanish rider, Jordi Viladoms, came in second overall aboard a KTM. Defending champion Despres had won the stage but he was later penalized five minutes, which dropped him to fifth on the last day. Barreda was then promoted from second to first on the stage.
The 36th edition of the Dakar Rally, which took off on January 5 and finished on January 18 at Valparaiso, Chile, crossed Argentina and Bolivia. It proved one of the toughest with temperatures soaring to 47 degrees in some places.
It also witnessed the death of one competitor—motorcyclist Eric Palante on the fifth stage between Chilecito and Tucuman—as well as two Argentine reporters.
The Dakar Rally also proved a hit with fans as Argentine police estimated around one million spectators watched the race that started at Rosario, the birthplace of Che Guevara and Lionel Messi.