The time has come to close the book on The Dakar Rally 2014. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen some very exciting races with stellar performances by some of the most intense rally raid racers in the world. Stage 13 from La Serena to Valparaíso, Chile was no different. For many competitors it was time for now or never racing. #2 Marc Coma finished the stage 18th but was cruising to overall victory by a massive margin of 1:57:27 over his teammate #4 Jordi Villadoms who was sixth to arrive at Valparaíso. Yamaha’s #6 Olivier Pain scored his first Dakar Rally podium, leading #1 Cyril Despres who started the race as the big favorite, was felled to underdog status and then rose from the ashes as a true Comeback Kid. Although the race was lost to him, #3 Joan Barreda Bort took the day for Honda followed by Pain and #7 Helder Rodrigues, the other red rider who blazed a trail through the South American deserts. #50 Laia Sanz finished sixteenth, a career high in her fourth straight Dakar appearance. The lone American #92 Mike Johnson’s Dakar dream came true as he finished the race 74th. Regardless of ranking, we think you are all the toughest people on two wheels in the world. Now it’s time to look at the four-wheeled warriors, including those bad, bad men in Minis.
When the entry list was first announced, the community was surprised to see eleven Minis in the race. However, respect must be given that despite the large number of dropouts from this year’s Dakar Rally – all eleven Minis crossed the finish line in Valparaíso. Now the order in which they did so is another story. Team orders are a part of motorsports, whether fans like it or not. Heck since the days when men raced on horses before embracing machines with mega horsepower, there have been team orders. If you want to get really nerdy about it, the needs of the many (with the money) outweigh the needs of the few (drivers and crew). So without further ado, #304 Nani Roma and Michel Perin tearfully took the win, making it Roma’s first in a car to match his 2004 win on a bike. They won two stages and were never lower than sixth throughout the entire race. The #304 worked darned hard this year and it’s unfair to them, that this race is being widely known as one that was handed to them by team orders. Roma dedicated the win to his longtime co-driver Henri Magne who perished in a terrible accident with Roma, during the 2006 Morocco Rally. The Spanish Dakar veteran sprinted straight towards his wife and fellow competitor #112 Rosa Romero for a loving embrace upon leaving the vehicle.
The Mini whitewash also consisted of #300 Stéphane Peterhansel with Jean-Paul Cottret and #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah with Lucas Cruz. Imperial Toyota’s #302 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz blazed through the stage trying to push into the podium to no avail. They finished fourth with no less than four Minis chasing them. Two of those were piloted by the other two members of the Monster Energy X Raid Rally Team. #309 Krzysztof Holowczyc and Konstantin Zhiltsov were in the second car to finish and ended up sixth overall. #304 Orlando Terranova and Paulo Fiúza were fifth on both lists. It’s actually funny that Mini has proven time and again to be rulers of the Dakar Rally. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for this dynasty in the making.
Since we’re in marveling mode, let’s take a look at the fantastic performances in the trucks class. Since the race began in Rosario, Argentina, there has been a fiery rivalry between #501 Gérard De Rooy and, well the whole Kamaz Master team. We say that because they’ve all been either chasing the Dutchman or getting passed by him over the past two weeks. The competition has been close and in the final stage, it was an act of kindness by #506 Andrey Karginov that cost De Rooy the race. The Russian team helped move a damaged Mini that was blocking the road. As a result, race officials gave them back 5:20 that had been lost and essentially the race as well. Way back in stage 2, race officials gave time back to De Rooy after he stopped to help #503 Ayrat Mardeev when his truck fell on its roof. Czech Republic’s #504 Ales Loprais won the final stage but the day belonged to the Russian team once again, with #500 Eduard Nikolaev taking the third podium spot. #549 Dmitry Sotnikov and #545 Anton Shibalov were fourth and fifth respectively. It really looked like this was De Rooy’s year to win but at least he made it to podium this year. Hopefully he’ll be back in 2015 to race for glory. We’re also more than sure that the Kamaz Master fleet will be there trying to stop him.
It’s been a thrill to cover The Dakar Rally two years in a row for My Life at Speed. It’s been marked the tragic loss of #122 Eric Palante as well as the two Argentine civilians Agustin Mina and Daniel Ambrosio. They left this world doing something that they loved and we remember those who will mourn their loss. However, we also saw fantastic runs by Joan Barreda Bort, Alain Duclos, Marcel Van Vliet and many others. From elite athletes to amateurs, big money factory-backed teams to plucky privateers – hundreds of men and women battled the elements as well as their own fears while racing across three countries. Whether fate or fatigue gained the upper-hand, one thing is sure, we’ll see many of them back again next year to do it all over again…and so will we.