Spain's Marc Coma clinched the 2011 Dakar Rally in the motorcycle category in Buenos Aires on Saturday, while Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah emerged the victor in the car category. Spanish driver and defending champion Carlos Sainz finished third overall, despite taking the 13th and final stage.
It was KTM rider Coma's third triumph in the competition and a tearjerking one at that. "It was emotional," he said. "Whether you want it or not, a lot of tension and a certain pressure is built up. At the moment of crossing the finishing line, you let yourself go. I would say that almost all the members of the team, even the most serious ones, shed a little tear."
And did the win feel any different third time round? "It's funny, but they are completely different," he said. "The first time, because it was something I thought was impossible. The second, because, after the canceling of the previous Dakar and after having lost one right at the finish, I thought that I don't mind if I never do it again. This third one: it's not that a nagging doubt has been removed from over me, but it is definitely a reward."
"I would say that almost all the members of the team shed a little tear."
The 34-year-old Catalan finished 15 minutes and four seconds ahead of second-place French teammate and rival Cyril Despres, after completing the final stage two minutes and 16 seconds behind Dutch winner Frans Verhoeven on a BMW.
"There is a lot of respect but that's where it stays," he said of his rivalry with Despres. "The truth is I have a distant relationship with Cyril - that's how it is. It's he who has imposed the distance, because it's all the same to me. I already have enough friends. I don't need any more."
The win makes Coma one of the all-time greats of the hardest race in the world. "Perhaps some sociologist or psychologist would better explain why human beings need great challenges. Dakar is one of those," he said.
"For me, it has been a dream since I was small. I always watched it on TV and now it seems incredible to form part of the Dakar family."
In the car category, it was Al-Attiyah's first win in the competition. "He had an impeccable Dakar," commented Carlos Sainz, his Volkswagen teammate whose seven stage wins in this year's race made him the driver with the most ever Dakar stage victories to his name - 24.
"I am very satisfied with the race we ran," the Spaniard added. "I was faithful to what I promised; to fight with all my might."
South African Giniel de Villiers finished in second overall for a clean sweep of Volkwagen Touareg drivers on the podium.