VALPARAïSO: Spanish driver Nani Roma won the Dakar Rally yesterday, 10 years after he clinched the motorcycle title in the gruelling event.
Roma, 42, overturned a 26-second overnight deficit on his Mini teammate and 11-time champion Stephane Peterhansel to take victory.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) won the stage, the 13th and final one of the race over 157km from La Serena, with Roma in second and 2011 champion Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar taking third.
Roma becomes just the third man to win the Dakar title on two and four wheels after Peterhansel and Hubert Auriol.
His win came after a controversial two days when Mini insisted on team orders which would have seen Roma, Peterhansel and Al Attiyah complete a podium lockout for the manufacturers.
But Friday saw Roma suffer a puncture, allowing Peterhansel to retake the overall lead.
It was unclear in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s conclusion whether or not the Mini drivers had received new instructions.
Peterhansel, six times a champion on two wheels and five times on four, was fourth on yesterday’s stage and took second place overall, 5min 38sec behind his teammate.
Al Attiyah, meanwhile, was left to rue the one-hour penalty he collected for missing waypoints on the 10th stage as he finished 56min 52sec behind Roma.
“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 race.
“I don’t know if this is the greatest stress I have experienced, but it was very tough,” said Roma.
“The second week with hard, long stages wasn’t easy. But 10 years after winning on a motorcycle also on January 18, I have won in the cars. It’s a dream come true.”
Spain’s Marc Coma, riding for the KTM team, won the motorcycle title for the fourth time.
The Dakar specialist avoided any last day misfortune to add the 2014 title to his successes in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
The 13th and final stage was won by France’s Cyril Despres, the defending champion, on a Yamaha with Spain’s Joan Barreda (Honda) in second and another French rider, Olivier Pain (Yamaha), 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 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 savour the moment as I don’t know if I am going to win again.”
The 36th edition of the Dakar Rally, which crossed Argentina, Bolivia as well as Chile, proved one of the toughest with temperatures soaring to 47 degrees at one stage.
It also witnessed the death of one competitor -- Belgian 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 Argentina police estimated around one million spectators watched the race get under way at Rosario, the birthplace of Che Guevara and Lionel Messi.