The final stage from Villa Carlos Pas to Rosario just finished, bringing the 2016 edition of the Dakar Rally to an end. The top 3 steps of the podium are all faces that we would have expected the last 3 or 4 years in Dakar. Stephane Peterhansel takes his 12th Dakar win, adding to an unbelievable career and giving Peugeot their first win since 1990. It’s obvious why they call him Monsieur Dakar! Thirty minutes back was last year’s champion and two time winner Nasser Al-Attiyah in the Mini X-Raid. Wrapping up the podium was another previous winner and always close challenger Giniel De Villiers of South Africa in the Toyota Hilux. All are previous winners, all in different vehicles.
Peugeot came on the scene with a massive amount of star power and a lot of development in the re-vamped Peugeot 2008 Dakar, hoping to rain on the Mini parade. In the end they were successful, but only just. Early on it was starting to look like it was going to potentially be a Peugeot 1-2-3, but the Dakar is long and treacherous with consistency and even a little luck being the keys to victory.
Although the podium was familar, new names and the fancy new hardware from Peugeot made a serious statement on this year’s event. Enough can’t be said about Sebastien Loeb’s performance. Sure he made a mistake that cost him a potential win, but he put that experienced podium on notice bookending the event with his 4th stage win and finishing in the top 10. It wasn’t just Loeb though as former WRC rival Mikko Hirvonen brilliantly drove to a 4th place finish including a stage win, just losing out to De Villiers by a scant two and a half minutes where they both drove on the limit in the final stage today. It’s amazing to think that after 14 days and over 46 hours of racing that it was that close. It is fair to predict that the former WRC favorites have shown that they are contenders for victory next year.
Robby Gordon didn’t fair so well, but he made it to the end which is more than a third of the field can say. A combination of penalties, fuel miscalculations, and mechanical issues rendered the American more than 10 hours back in 25th. When the Gordini was on song it was a potential top 10 finisher, but unfortunately not any better than that. A frustrated Gordon signaled that he may not be back to Dakar in the years to come.
Looking back it has been the 4wd drive vehicles that have dominated Dakar as of late, and the same was true this year save for the Peugeot 2008 Dakar. I will say that the Peugeot did surprise me that it did so well, however the 2016 route may have played somewhat into its favor. This year the top 10 contained 4 Mini X-Raids, 3 Toyota Hiluxes, and the 3 Peugeots. Considering this diversity, it will be interesting to see what developments occur during the long wait until next year’s Dakar.