Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel celebrate after winning the 2019 Dakar Rally. Picture: Carlos Jasso / Reuters.

Lima - This year’s Dakar Rally has been won in a South African built Toyota Hilux, with Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar finishing the epic rally with a 46 minute advantage after taking no risks on the final stage to Lima.

While this was Al-Attiyah’s third Dakar win (the previous ones were with Mini in 2015 and Volkswagen in 2011), it was a magical first victory for the Proudly South African Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team.

Sainz's compatriot Nani Roma, in an X-Raid Mini, finished second overall with nine times rally world champion Sebastien Loeb, runner-up in the stage, completing the podium with a privately-entered Peugeot in the absence of a works entry.

The final stage, however, was won by last year’s champion, Spaniard Carlos Sainz, with the cautious Al-Attiyah coming in 12th, and some nine minutes slower.

Runner-up in 2018, the Qatari led after every stage bar the second day in this year's event when South African team-mate Giniel de Villiers was ahead. Although he had made a strong start to the rally, De Villiers' finished ninth overall, having lost more than four-and-a-half hours in Stage 3 after hitting a rock that was hidden in the sand.

“Obviously we came here to try to win the race,” said De Villiers. “But once that dream ended, we were happy to support Nasser and Mathieu’s effort. If we couldn’t win it ourselves, the next best thing was for one of our team-mates to take the victory, and I am overjoyed at the final result.”

Team Principal Glyn Hall found himself struggling for words after his two crews drove in after the final time control. 

“This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed.

Al Attiyah, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Price takes two-wheel race

Australian Toby Price took the motorcycle crown. Nursing a painful wrist injury, he had led overnight but with only a minute between him and Chilean Pablo Quintanilla. The Australian clinched his second Dakar title, on a KTM, after he won the stage and Quintanilla fell.

Botswana’s Ross Branch finished 13th overall, while South Africa’s Kenny Gilbert rode his Husqvarna to nineteenth overall and second among the epic race’s two-wheeler rookies.

Russian Eduard Nikolaev secured his third successive Dakar title, and fourth in total, in the truck category with Kamaz.

More details and quotes to follow.

IOL Motoring