Spills, thrills, triumph and tragedy are all words that can be used to describe The Dakar Rally 2013 which started in Lima, Peru on January 5, 2013.  There were hundreds of competitors with support crews, co-ordinators, organizers, journalists, medical staff, security, and more.  They blazed a trail that crossed over into Argentina and ended in the Chilean capital two weeks later.  No matter where they placed in the standings, these brave men and women can hold their heads high as having conquered the sands, mountains, rocks and rivers of some of the world’s roughest terrains.  One hundred and thirty-three vehicles didn’t make it across the finish line; a number that doesn’t include French rider, Thomas Bourgin who lost his life in Peru.  There are no losers in The Dakar Rally but we cannot talk about any race without paying homage to its winners.

Ruben Faria (PRT) defies gravity on a KTM 250 in Chile on January 19, 2013

The fourteenth and final stage from La Serena to Santiago was a doozy!  Frenchman Cyril Despres lead the top trio of Red Bull’s sponsored riders as he claimed his fifth Dakar championship with a masterful show.  Chile’s own son, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López went “hell for leather” according to Portugal’s Ruben Faria during stage thirteen.  Although López achieved his goal of snatching the second overall spot from Faria, his efforts were in vain.  He was forced to change his bike’s engine after a gear failure and accept a fifteen minute penalty.  Despite a fine performance, he just couldn’t outrun that disadvantage and was relegated to third overall position, while Faria recaptured the second step on the podium.  It was a very good day for the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, KTM as Slovakia’s Ivan Jakes and Spain’s Juan Pedrero took the fourth and fifth spots.

Red Bull’s athletes dominated another podium as KAMAZ Master Team swept the Truck category.  Eduard Nikolaev brimmed with emotion as he claimed his very first Dakar victory, followed by Ayrat Mardeev and Andrey Karginov.  Mardeev’s stay in third overall place was brief as he edged out his teammate by only 47”.  Karginov had a blown front-right tire but crossed the finish line on the rim!  Surely their team leader, the ‘Tsar of Dakar’ Vladimir Chagin was very proud to see his charges taste sweet victory although it’s an unusual one.  Nikolaev is the first Dakar winner ever who didn’t win any of the stages.  We know that slow and steady wins the race but this must be particularly painful to the stage winners that missed the podium like last year’s champion, Gerard De Rooy of The Netherlands who placed fourth overall.  However, this should serve as impetus for the next one.

“For me, it’s a dream come true, a dream which began five years ago when I got into a racing Kamaz for the first time as a mere mechanic. I dreamed of winning this rally someday and I did it! I still can’t believe it happened!” – Eduard Nikolaev

Eduard Nikolaev and Vladimir Chagin in Santiago, Chile on January 19th, 2013 // Marcelo Maragni

Another Dakar legend to take the win was France’s Stéphane Peterhansel in his Mini All4.  ‘Peter’ has won six rallies on a motorcycle and now five times in a car.  His Russian Monster Energy X-Raid teammates, Leonid Novistkiy copped third and previously featured Spanish driver Joan ‘Nani’ Roma was fourth.  South African Giniel De Villiers managed to hold on to second place in his Toyota Hi-Lux Pick Up.  A number of new competitors not only gave the seasoned veterans a run for their money, but showed the rally world what they could do.  Newcomers like the American Kurt Caselli, South Africa’s Riaan Van Niekerk and Russian Vladimir Vasiljev all made their mark and will be some of the ones to watch in the future.

Giniel de Villiers at the finish of Dakar Rally in Santiago, Chile on January 19th, 2013 // Marcelo Maragni

You can relive all the excitement at Red Bull’s Dakar 2013 web page or www.Dakar.com.  US fans can check listings for The Dakar Rally on the NBC Sports Network.  Keep up on the after parties and look out for news and updates for the 2014 Dakar rally via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram.  Let’s not forget the free official Dakar Rally 2013 apps for your iPhone and Android smart phones.  Are you ready for The Dakar Rally 2014, My Life at Speeders?

Monster Energy X-Raid Team at the podium ceremony in Santiago, Chile January 20, 2013