Roma and Coma take Dakar

Spaniards tie up car and motorbike categories of epic rally

Valparaíso -
Nani Roma (r) and copilot Michel Perin celebrate their Dakar 2014 victory.
Nani Roma (r) and copilot Michel Perin celebrate their Dakar 2014 victory.JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER (REUTERS)

Spaniards Joan “Nani” Roma and Marc Coma notched up historic victories on Saturday by winning the car and motorbike disciplines of the Dakar Rally. The two Catalans thus broke the dominance that Cyril Despres (bikes) and Stéphane Peterhansel (cars) have enjoyed over the last two years.

The outcome of the last stage of the epic two-week rally — which wound a grueling route through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile — was far from certain, given the apparent failure of Roma’s Mini X-Raid teammate, Peterhansel, to stick to team orders and allow Roma to take overall victory.

But in the end, the wishes of Mini X-Raid boss Sven Quandt were observed, with Roma taking the top step of the podium, and his teammates Peterhansel and Nasser Al Attiyah in second and third, respectively.

Roma’s victory in cars comes 10 years after he took the top spot in the motorcycle category, becoming only the third person in the history of the competition to pull off that feat. “What we did 10 years ago was amazing,” explained Roma after the race. “A Spaniard had never won a Dakar. So we started something really great, and it has been just as great to win in a car. I never thought I’d take part in the Dakar — it was a dream the first time. Nor did I ever think I’d win it, so managing to pull that off in a car is just fantastic.”

Marc Coma, meanwhile, practically had his race all sewn up, but still needed to cross the finish line of the last stage on his KTM bike to ensure his fourth Dakar title. Coma, who had a two-hour advantage over the second-placed rider, avoided taking any risks, completing the stage without incident to take the rally title. In second place was Jordi Viladoms (KTM), also from Spain.

Coma had a particularly tough time in this edition of the rally, suffering from flu and tonsillitis. Asked what went through his head when he crossed the line, the Spanish rider said: “There were a lot of things, because I spent a lot of time preparing for this Dakar. I lost out last year, one of my teammates died [US rider Kurt Caselli], I’ve got a son now, who does something new every day. A lot of things came together.

“After so many days with so much pressure, it’s impossible to explain everything that goes through your head,” Coma said.

Further down the field, female Spanish rider Laia Sanz (Honda) finished the race in a well-deserved 16th position, her all-time best Dakar result.

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