Peterhansel wins the Dakar for the 11th time. Loeb considering entering next year. Sainz to return too
Stephane Peterhansel doesn’t have much to prove. Neither to himself nor to others. The French driver may not be as well known as F1 driver Sebastian Vettel but Peterhansel is a legend. After winning the Dakar 6 times on a motorcycle while riding for Yamaha, Peterhansel changed to 4 wheelers in 1999 and started to drive for Nissan. Success didn’t come immediately and the French driver struggled to regain his form which saw him win the motorcycle event. Peterhansel then changed his team to Mitsubishi and in 2004 he won the first of now 5 wins while driving a Pajero. Last year Peterhansel won the Dakar for the first time since it moved to South America driving the Mini prepared by team x-raid and the Frenchman repeated his success this year again. His 5th victory puts him ahead of Finnish driver Ari Vatanen who won the Dakar 4 times in the 4 wheeler category.
Peterhansel has won the Dakar now for a record 11 times and after the event he described his victory was ’like a dream’. Driving a Mini Countryman, the French driver took the lead of the rally on the second day as his main competitor Carlos Sainz driving a Red Bull buggy retired from the rally.
Peterhansel is now the only man to have won the car category five times. In an interview to Autosport magazine, Peterhansel further said, ‘It’s been like a dream, there were no problems at all and the car was incredible, 100 per cent reliable. It’s incredible that we were able to defend the title from last year. We had some strong opponents, but that helped focus us from the start. ‘We had to battle it out with numerous extremely competitive opponents but in the end, we were the ones who secured the win. Just as it was the case last year, the Mini ran perfectly. I have to thank the entire team that did a fantastic job and not only during the past two weeks.’ ‘This is still motorsport, so it wasn’t finished until we crossed the line, but once we had a sizeable gap it was a bit more comfortable and allowed us to change strategy a little. For me, this year is the best route since we have come to South America. The first four days in Peru were very complicated for navigation because of the soft sand and dunes, but also it was very nice landscapes. For me, but maybe not for everybody, it has been the best start since the Dakar moved.’
Talking about his retirement plans Peterhansel said, ‘Maybe before I get to 50 I stop.’ ‘I am 48 this year - close to the end, no? Money has never been my motivation. You need passion to race the Dakar. For me it’s interesting because it’s not just about speed. Yes you need it, but you also need to mix in endurance, strategy, navigation. It’s a compromise of all the parameters, and one I continue to find interesting.’
Unlike his competitors, Peterhansel didn’t suffer from any mechanical problems. Finishing in second place was Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers but who was 50m21 seconds behind the winner.
The Dakar this year started from Lima in Peru for the first time and the event had its fair share of challenges when a stage had to be cancelled after a riverbed flooded. Peterhansel made his biggest mistake of the event when he made a navigational error and lost 12 minutes. ‘My first big mistake since the start of the rally.’ ‘I insisted on following the motorcycle tracks but it was the wrong direction.’ The only driver who threatened the French drivers lead was Qatari driver and Olympic bronze medallist Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Amongst the other notable finishers was sixth place Carlos Sousa driving a Haval sport utility vehicle entered by the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall. Peterhansel’s teammate Leonid Novitskiy driving a Mini finished third.
Peterhansel’s car for the event
Peterhansel retained his title driving a Mini designed and engineered by the German based X-Raid team. From the outside the Mini looks similar to its road going version but for optimised airflow on the roof and at the rear is a spoiler. The Mini has side skirts and the cabin has racing seats with 6 point racing harness. The Mini is 4333mm long, 1998mm wide with a wheelbase of 2900mm and the dashboard is made of carbon fiber. The dashboard has a switch symbol to indicate gear changers with information for speed, oil pressure, temperatures and electronics and navigating aids.
Powered by a 3-litre, V6 diesel engine designed and manufactured by BMW, the engine with a twin-turbo engine produces 305PS@3250rpm. The engine is based on a production version of a BMW engine and matched to it is a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox. The engine uses dry sump lubrication with lockable oil-cooled front, middle and rear axle differentials. The chassis has been modified too and the bodywork uses carbon fibre. To increase the strength of the engine the chassis uses 50-mm steel pipes in the roll cage. The suspension has an adjustable roll valve which can alter the car’s roll.
Sainz wants to give another shot to the Dakar
Despite retiring early from the Dakar this year, former Dakar and WRC champion Carlos Sainz driving the Qatar Red Bull buggy project said he would like to return to the event next year. Sainz led the rally this year after the first day but then retired because of an engine fault. ‘First of all, I would like to say it was nice to come back and I don’t regret that decision.’ ‘We knew the project was very young and now it’s a matter to try and start working. If we start working now, I would like to come back. You can do the first year to learn, but to do the second year in the same fashion, I’m not so sure. Nasser is clever and he knows what we have to do, and in that way I will be more than happy to help him. We can make a strong team, but we need to start working now to have the prospect of a good result. We will make a plan at the latest next month.’
Will Sebastian Loeb replace Peterhansel?
9 times World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb who from this year won’t be entering the WRC in all its events has recently revealed his desire to compete in the Dakar. Speaking to Autosport magazine he said, ‘One day, maybe I would like to go and do Dakar, but I wouldn’t do it with Severine and not with Daniel. For sure we would be lost.’ ‘If I did Dakar, this would be a private thing, it would not be something with Citroen.’ he further added.