Two-time WRC champion Carlos Sainz has failed to complete the Dakar rally for the last three years as a factory Peugeot entrant, but perseverance and patience has prevailed with Sainz not only finishing the rally, but taking home the champion’s laurels to boot. This was his last best chance to win Dakar again, as his Peugeot team announced that 2018 would be their final attempt at the rally for the current program.
Last weekend we reported that Sainz had taken the lead of the rally after teammate Stephane Peterhansel suffered a crash that damaged his car’s rear suspension. By winning back-to-back stages, Sainz had found the lead of the rally and was never caught up again. Of the 13-stage rally, those two wins would be Sainz’ only. He finished the rally-ending final stage three minutes off the pace, but still with a 44-minute gap back to Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah. Toyota also rounded out the overall podium as Giniel de Villiers came home in third position, narrowly beating out 13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel, who had to settle for fourth.
The four-year Peugeot program has been ultimately successful, finding the top of the podium in three of the four years. Countryman Peterhansel and co-pilot Jean-Paul Cottret had previously won in 2017 and 2016, ending MINI’s four-year win streak. Sainz had previously won Dakar at the wheel of a Volkswagen Touareg way back in 2010, adding to his hardware this year with the French manufacturer.
55-year-old Sainz has some thoughts on the difficulty of this year’s rally, telling Autosport.com: “From the [Dakars] I have done this has been the hardest, including the two in Africa that I did.” With the end of Peugeot’s program, it’s unclear where the Spaniard will go from here, continuing, “There’ll be time to think about it. Peugeot retires and we’ll see what we do.”