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Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah wins his fourth car rally, Sam Sunderland doubles down on his motorcycle

And four. After winning in 2011, 2015 and 2019, the Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah won, Friday January 14, the 2022 edition of the Dakar in the car category.

Winner of the prologue and of a stage, Nasser Al-Attiyah leads the French Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive) by 27 minutes and 46 seconds, and the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota) by 1 hour 1 minute and 13 seconds. In the lead since the first stage, Al-Attiyah had a 48-minute lead before the final days, where he drove everything in control.

In tandem with the French co-driver Mathieu Baumel, for whom this is the third coronation in the legendary rally-raid, the 51-year-old Qatari, also an Olympic medalist in the skeet event (the official name of ball-trap at the Games Olympics), was never worried, during this edition marked by an explosion at the end of December on the course, which seriously injured a French participant and put Saudi Arabia in the« Embarrassment ». The competition was also bereaved by the death of a 20-year-old French chief engineer, Quentin Lavallée, who lost his life in a road accident, we learned on Friday.

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Al-Attiyah, 51, has thus accumulated 44 stage victories, on three continents (Africa, South America, Asia), but he had not yet succeeded in winning in Saudi Arabia, where the event has been taking place since 2020: twice second, beaten by two sacred monsters, Carlos Sainz and Stéphane Peterhansel.

Since his first Dakar, disputed anonymously – he finished in tenth place in 2004 in Senegal at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Pajero -, Al-Attiyah has won four times, for three different manufacturers: first Volkswagen (2011), then Mini (2015) and therefore Toyota (2019 and 2022). And he also drove for BMW and Hummer.

Sam Sunderland passes the second

On the motorcycle side, the 32-year-old Briton Sam Sunderland (KTM) won his second Dakar rally-raid in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), after a first success in 2017 in South America.

He is 3 minutes and 27 seconds ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Honda), winner of the 12e and last stage, and of 6:47 the Austrian Matthias Walkner (KTM). The French Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) finishes at the foot of the podium, 4e at 18:41

The first British biker to win the Dakar, Sunderland had already almost doubled the bet in 2019, but he had finished 3rd behind his teammates Toby Price and Matthias Walkner, and again in 2021, when he had again finished 3rde in the wake of Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec.

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This year, in a particularly eventful edition, Sunderland, leader of the general during the first week, animated the passes of arms of the last days to finally take back the first place from his brother-in-law Van Beveren – he is married to the sister youngest of the French pilot – that the day before the arrival.

Finally, Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha) became the first French winner of the Dakar quad rally-raid after the 12th and final stage in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

The 40-year-old driver, whose best result in six appearances since 2018 was so far a fourth place in 2019, wins the 2022 edition, 25 years after his father Daniel became the first to reach the finish on this type. vehicle.

Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah wins his fourth car rally, Sam Sunderland doubles down on his motorcycle

Explosion and suspicion of an attack

During this 2022 edition, the explosion of a vehicle, seriously injuring a French participant, embarrassed Saudi Arabia, as the conservative kingdom seeks to establish itself as a stronghold of world sport, according to experts.

French justice opened an investigation for « attempted assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise », after the explosion on December 30 in Jeddah (west), which seriously injured the driver Philippe Boutron, 61, repatriated after having been operated on in Saudi Arabia.

« We thought that maybe it was worth giving up on this sporting event », even recognized the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, before his entourage clarified his words: “The question that arises relates to what happened and not to the possible suspension of the Dakar-2022. « 

At any rate, « It is a hard blow for the organizers and for Saudi Arabia », estimates Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and specialist in the geopolitics of sport.

“The Dakar is no longer in Dakar to avoid problems of the threat of attacks and of security. And there again, security issues are introduced, reminding us of the fragility of an organization of a race of this type, including in a country that one might think is secure ”, he told AFP.

The mourning race

Before being moved to South America (in 2009) then to Saudi Arabia, the rally-raid crossed the Sahel in particular. A move intended to distance him from the terrorist threat or armed conflicts, which claimed the lives of two participants in the 1990s.

On the sidelines of the competition, a 20-year-old French chief engineer, Quentin Lavallée, lost his life in a road accident in Saudi Arabia, organizers said in a statement Friday.

« His passenger, Maxime Frère, of Belgian nationality, was injured and transported conscious to the National Guards Hospital in Jeddah (west) where a full assessment is underway », is it specified.

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