Dakar: Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah wins his fourth car rally, Sam Sunderland doubles the lead on a motorcycle

And four. After winning in 2011, 2015 and 2019, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah won the 2022 edition of the Dakar in the car category on Friday January 14.

Winner of the prologue and a stage, Nasser Al-Attiyah is ahead of Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive) by 27 minutes and 46 seconds, and Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota) by 1 hour 1 minute and 13 seconds. In the lead since the first stage, Al-Attiyah counted up to forty-eight minutes ahead before the last days, where he piloted everything in control.

In tandem with the French co-driver Mathieu Baumel, for whom this is the third coronation in the mythical rally-raid, the 51-year-old Qatari, also Olympic medalist in the skeet event (the official name of clay pigeon shooting at the Olympics), was never worried, during this edition marked by an explosion which occurred at the end of December on the course, which seriously injured a French participant and put Saudi Arabia in the“embarrassment”. The competition was also bereaved by the death of a 20-year-old French chief mechanic, Quentin Lavallée, who lost his life in a road accident, we learned on Friday.

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Al-Attiyah, 51, has thus accumulated 44 stage victories, on three continents (Africa, South America, Asia), but he had not yet succeeded in winning in Saudi Arabia, where the event has been taking place since 2020: twice second, beaten by two sacred monsters, Carlos Sainz and Stéphane Peterhansel.

Since his first Dakar, contested in anonymity – he finished in tenth place in 2004 in Senegal at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Pajero –, Al-Attiyah has won four times, for three different manufacturers: first Volkswagen (2011), then Mini (2015) and therefore Toyota (2019 and 2022). And he also drove for BMW and Hummer.

Sam Sunderland passes the second

On the motorcycle side, 32-year-old Briton Sam Sunderland (KTM) won his second Dakar rally-raid in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), after a first success in 2017 in South America.

He is 3 minutes and 27 seconds ahead of the Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Honda), winner of the 12e and last stage, and 6 min 47 s the Austrian Matthias Walkner (KTM). Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) finished just off the podium, 4e at 18:41.

The first British rider to win the Dakar, Sunderland had already nearly doubled the lead in 2019, but he finished 3rd behind his teammates Toby Price and Matthias Walkner, and again in 2021, when he finished 3rd again.e in the wake of Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec.

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This year, in a particularly eventful edition, Sunderland, leader of the general classification during the first week, animated the passes of arms of the last days to finally take the first place from his brother-in-law Van Beveren – he is married to the sister youngest of the French pilot – only the day before the arrival.

Finally, Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha) became the first French winner of the Dakar rally-raid in quad at the end of the 12th and last stage in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

The 40-year-old, whose best result in six outings since 2018 was fourth in 2019, wins the 2022 edition, 25 years after his father Daniel became the first to reach the finish on this type of vehicle.

French quad rider Alexander Giroud celebrates his win of Dakar 2022 at the end of the last stage between Bisha and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Explosion and suspected attack

During this 2022 edition, the explosion of a vehicle, seriously injuring a French participant, put Saudi Arabia in an embarrassment, at a time when the conservative kingdom seeks to establish itself as a stronghold of world sport, according to experts.

French justice has opened an investigation for “attempted assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise”, after the explosion which occurred on December 30 in Jeddah (west), which seriously injured the driver Philippe Boutron, 61, repatriated after having had surgery in Saudi Arabia.

“We thought maybe it was worth giving up on this sporting event”, even acknowledged the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, before his entourage clarified his words: “The question that arises is about what happened and not about the possible suspension of the Dakar-2022. »

At any rate, “It’s a blow for the organizers and for Saudi Arabia”, says Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and specialist in the geopolitics of sport.

“The Dakar is no longer in Dakar to avoid the threat of attacks and security problems. And here again the questions of security are introduced, reminding us of the fragility of organizing a race of this type, including in a country that one could think was secure », told the AFP.

The bereaved race

Before being moved to South America (in 2009) and then to Saudi Arabia, the rally-raid notably crossed the Sahel. A move intended to distance it from the terrorist threat or armed conflicts, which claimed the lives of two participants in the 1990s.

On the sidelines of the competition, a 20-year-old French chief mechanic, Quentin Lavallée, lost his life in a road accident in Saudi Arabia, the organizers announced in a press release on Friday.

“His passenger, Maxime Frère, of Belgian nationality, was injured and transported conscious to the National Guards Hospital in Jeddah (west) where a full assessment is in progress”, it is specified.

The World with AFP

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Dakar: Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah wins his fourth car rally, Sam Sunderland doubles the lead on a motorcycle