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Even with four previous wins in the world's toughest motorsport challenge behind him, Cyril Depres couldn't believe he was going to win the 2013 Dakar Rally until he crossed the line in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday, saw the flashguns go off and heard the cheers of the crowd.
The veteran Frenchman added the 2013 title to his wins in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012.
“It's true that I needed to cross the line and see all these pictures and people here to know that no-body can take this win away from me,” said Despres, who came in 17th on the final stage.
“The day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won't be interesting any more. And that day is still a long way off.
“It's too long, it's too tough, it's too hot, it's too cold, you have to get up early in the morning, you have to find your way out of the dune mazes in Peru and Chile, you have to tackle the stones and cactuses on the courses near Cordoba.
“It's just too tricky for it to be easy to win. And it's even better when you win a difficult race.”
Portuguese rider Ruben Faria won the 14th and last stage over 625km from La Serena to Santiago, with a 126km timed section, in one hour, 43 minutes and 6 seconds to take second overall, 10 minutes and 43 seconds behind his KTM team-mate, with Chilean rider Francisco Lopez, on another KTM, third, another eight minutes adrift after two weeks and 8400km of racing over some of the toughest terrain on the planet.
The top-placed non-KTM rider was Olivier Pain, who finished sixth on a Yamaha, 1hr06min behind Despres. Pain led the race at one point but dropped out of contention after the halfway rest day.
SOUTH AFRICAN CONTINGENT
Dakar rookie Riaan van Niekerk was the best of the South Africans, taking 13th overall after finisihing the final stage in 22nd position. Van Niekerk moved into the top 20 on the fourth leg and finished strongly.
Van Niekerk's KTM team mate Darryl Curtis, on the other hand, had a fantastic start, lying seventh overall after two legs, but struggled in the latter stages of the race and slipped back. Curtis battled through the pain barrier after what he described as a monster crash when he hit a ditch on Stage 11 and came in 60th on the final stage to finish 32nd overall in his second Dakar.
Another newbie, Brett Cummings, riding a Honda, had a disastrous start, lying outside the top 100 after the first stage. He then made matters worse when he stopped to tow a fellow competitor 160km out of Stage 4, which left him playing catch-up for most of the race.
Cummings fought back, however, with a series of storming rides in the second half and did well to finish 43rd overall after crossing the line 28th in the final stage.
Meanwhile, quad rider Sarel van Biljon, the only South African to win a stage of this year's race, won the two final stages to take his tally to three. Van Biljon lost his podium place and tumbled down the standings after a disastrous Stage 9, but soldiered on in the second half of the race to finish 22nd overall, more than 15 hours behind Argentinean winner Marcos Patronelli. - Reuters, AFP, Sapa
RESULTS - STAGE 14
1 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM - 1hr 43min 06sec
2 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Husqvarna) +8sec
3 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda) +24sec
4 Mario Patrao (Portugal) Suzuki +1min21
5 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +2min14
6 Paulo Goncalves (Portugal) Husqvarna +2min32
7 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Honda +2min37
8 Frans Verhoeven (Netherlands) Yamaha) +2min39
9 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +3min07
10 Gerard Farres Guell (Spain) Honda +3min11
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM - 43 hr 24min 22sec
2 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM) +10min43
3 Francisco Chaleco Lopez Contardo (Chile) KTM +18min48
4 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +23min54
5 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) KTM +55min29
6 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +1hr06min30
7 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +1hr11min22
8 Javier Pizzolito (Argentina) Honda +1hr26min07
9 Frans Verhoeven (Netherlands) Yamaha) +1hr26min35
10 Paulo Goncalves (Portugal) Husqvarna) +1hr28min20