We choose some of our favourite images from the 2016 Dakar Rally, thanks to the help our old mates over at MCH Photo[Not a valid template]
Could he really do it? Could he add a Dakar Rally victory to his nine World Rally Championship titles, multiple World Touring Car and Blancpain Sprint GT race wins and a devastating Pikes Peak record…all on his first attempt? Given that the man in question was Sebastien Loeb, few would have bet their shirt against him.
Ultimately though, despite leading the rally from the second stage onwards – the first having been cancelled due to heavy rain – and having led five of the first seven days of competition, it would not be a fairy-tale result for Loeb. The irony of turning down a drive at Rally Monte Carlo – a blue ribbon event he’s won seven times – was not lost on the Frenchman as he clambered from his now destroyed 2008DKR after a sizable roll on stage eight. “It’s finished for overall victory,” he admitted shortly afterward, and ninth overall after 9237km and 14 days was a poor reward for his efforts.
On the flip side of the coin though was Loeb’s Peugeot teammate Stephane Peterhansel, already a Dakar king thanks to 11 event wins to his name as of 2015 and with memories of 12th last year after a frustrating run ready to be burnt from his mind’s eye, the Frenchman was on a charge. Mechanical woes for teammate Carlos Sainz (namely gearbox failure) and a spectacular roll for 2015 Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah meant that by stage 10, Peterhansel had an hour lead under his belt. Though the final legs would still throw a potential penalty for refuelling infringements in his direction, the gap was sufficient to take Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret to the chequered flag, and Peugeot to its first Dakar win since 1990. A strong fightback from Al-Attiyah saw the Qatari secure second in the Axion X-Raid Team MINI ALL4RACING, while ‘09 event winner Giniel de Vinniers completed the podium in the Toyota Gazoo Racing-run Hilux. And with just three minutes in-hand over WRC regular Mikko Hirvonen, who took a solid fourth on his Dakar debut.
Right, that’s enough of the context. We thought you might be more interested in these AWESOME shots from our mates over at MCH Photo, who’ve established themselves as regulars on the Dakar for the past few years. They were even there when we drove the Dakar Rally-winning MINI ALL4RACING in both 2014 and again in 2015.