The winner of the Dakar Rally 2012 stepped from his exhausted stead knowing he had just made history. Ensconced within a strong outfit and as a past winner of the event, emulating Ari Vatanen’s longstanding record from 1991 was almost effortless. Unfortunately, unlike Stephane Peterhansel, the same could not be said for Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Following his Dakar win with VW last year, outright victory in 2012 would have made Al-Attiyah only the second driver to win consecutive Dakar Rallies with different teams, after Vatanen. A string of problems from the get-go crippled this opportunity, however. Already trailing by 45 minutes, immediate engine problems post-rest day more than doubled the deficit. Time and again, a terrific fightback by the Team Gordon driver was blighted by technical issues before alternator failure on the tenth stage put his Hummer H3 permanently to bed.
At the opposite side of the spectrum, Peterhansel walked to a landmark fourth car victory on the Dakar, tying him with that man Vatanen. While technical issues felled his closest rivals, consistent times brought Peterhansel two more stage wins. But for a rogue sink hole on unlucky day 13, which cost him 40 minutes, the Frenchman’s margin of victory over team-mate Roma could well have been more than its eventual 22 minutes. Indeed Roma, on a charge after a slow start to the competition, was the only driver within an hour of Peterhansel’s finishing time.
Similarly bullet-proof consistency helped leapfrog Giniel de Villiers from fifth to third in the closing stages. Despite limited prep time and a late deal with his new Toyota outfit, the ’09 Dakar winner’s less boisterous driving style gave the Hilux a podium finish at its first attempt. This imposition denied the Mini Countryman a 1-2-3 on its debut, early leader Leonard Novitskiy instead having to settle for fourth.