After 5580 rough and tumble miles through Argentina and Chile, the Dakar Rally came to a close today with Frenchman Cyril Despres taking the win in Buenos Aires - for his third Dakar victory and the 10th in a row for KTM.
Despres finished today's final stage, a 483-mile run that featured a 128-mile timed special stage, in eighth place - five minutes and five seconds behind his KTM support rider Rubin Faria. But that was all he needed to secure victory number three (he won in 2005 and 2007 when the Dakar was held in Africa) as he dominated this year's event, topping runner-up Pal Anders Ullevalseter by almost an hour and three minutes.
"All victories are nice, but this one is particularly beautiful," Despres said in a team release. "It is the victory of hard work, of expertise and of an incredible team. There are nine of us in the team and not one of us ever let go. We all wanted to win; we all wanted to fight hard and we won. It's just fantastic. Of course there is a lot of emotion."
Despres whose racing career has had its setbacks, injuries and a constant battle with his arch rival, fellow KTM rider Marc Coma said he was genuinely moved by the victory.
"I am human," he said "I know I have been riding this bike for 15 days and I am exhausted, but the little strength I had left just went in tears. KTM played a big part in this victory. They trusted us. We chose everyone. We have been working 24/7 for months. One thing is clear; I was not afraid of losing. I just wanted to win. And this will to win was stronger than the fear of losing. It was a tough Dakar, a beautiful Dakar and I am so glad I won."
For Ullevalseter it was the Norwegian's best result in his eighth rally.
"To finish second in the standings is more than I expected," Ullevalseter said. "I had dreamed of it and there it is. On this Dakar, I only had good times. No problems, no crash. The bike worked well. I may not be the fastest rider, but I am experienced. I know how to navigate, I know the technique and I am much more relaxed. With my first stage victory yesterday, I have lived so many things in two days. It's great times. The party is on for weeks to come now. I've been training for this moment for 25 years."
Third place overall went to Aprilia's Francisco Lopez Contardo, the Chilean ending today's stage in 10th place. Yamaha's Helder Rodrigues finished fouth overall, one spot better than fellow Yamaha man David Fretigne.
Defending champion Marc Coma ended up 15th overall after penalties knocked him out of this year's battle for the win. He did win four stages, however.
American Jonah Street ended the final stage in 12th place, putting him seventh in the overall standings