West News Wire: Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar won his second consecutive and fifth overall Dakar Rally driver’s championship when the legendary endurance test came to a close in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

The Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, who finished second last year as well, trailed the 52-year-old by more than an hour in the overall standings on Sunday after the 52-year-old won three stages.

Brazil’s Lucas Moraes, a colleague of Al-at Attiyah’s Toyota, came in third. With a dominating lead after the first week and a safety-first approach in the second half of the race, Al-Attiyah claimed the overall lead following the third stage.

As he set a record by winning six straight stages in the second week for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme squad, Loeb gave it everything he had. But the 48-year-old Frenchman had lost so much time on the first part of the race that it was a lost cause.

The Qatari, who led from stage three as rivals hit trouble, now ranks second in the list of all-time winners in the car category behind eight-time champion Stephane Peterhansel of France.

Peterhansel, the “Mr Dakar” who retired from this year’s edition after crashing his electric hybrid Audi, has also won the motorcycle crown six times.

The motorbike title race had plenty of thrills and spills.

Kevin Benavides the 2021 champion edged out Australian Toby Price by 43 seconds with Skyler Howes of the United States finishing third.

Benavides who celebrated his 34th birthday during the race trailed two-time champion Price by 12 seconds entering Sunday’s 14th and final stage.

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He produced a sterling ride to win the stage, however, and post a time 55 seconds faster than his 35-year-old rival.

Benavides’s win will be a popular one as he selflessly stopped to aid stricken rival Matthias Walkner in Saturday’s penultimate stage.

“It’s incredible to pull off the win at the end of this completely crazy Dakar, and with such a small gap,” Benavides said.

“I’m also the first to win with two different motorbike brands, and that makes me very proud,” he added.

It brought to an end a fascinating battle for supremacy in the motorbike section which had seen Howes lead for six days.

Price could not hide his disappointment despite praising Benavides for doing a “great job”.

“Yeah, hard to take at the moment, but at the end of the day I’m going home in one piece and we got a Dakar trophy,” he said.


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