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‘El Matador’ Sainz makes Dakar Rally history

Team Audi Sport’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz (right) and his Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruzof celebrate their victory at the Dakar Rally. Photo: AFP

Veteran Spanish driver Carlos Sainz won the gruelling Dakar Rally for a fourth time on Friday, becoming at 61 the oldest winner of the race.

The two-time world rally champion known as ‘El Matador’ had been all but guaranteed success when closest rival Sebastien Loeb was stranded in the desert for over an hour in Thursday’s penultimate stage.

Sainz — the father of Ferrari Formula One driver Carlos Sainz Jr – had led since the sixth stage.

Aided by his fellow Audi drivers Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom and France’s ‘Mr Dakar’ 14-time champion Stephane Peterhansel — the 58-year-old driving in his final edition – controlled the race from then on.

Sainz delivers German outfit Audi their first Dakar title.   

Earlier American Ricky Brabec had taken the honours in the motorbike category for a second time.

The 32-year-old Honda rider held an advantage of 10 minutes 53 seconds, as the 12th stage brought the curtain down, over Botswana’s Ross Branch on a Hero.

Frenchman Adrien van Beveren, 33, claimed his first podium finish in the rally to fill third spot.

Brabec had made history in 2020 when he became the first American to win the crown, but he was just as excited about doubling his tally.

“I had chills down my spine as I crossed the finishing line,” he said.

“I still do not have words for how I feel, save it was a smooth ride, the team was unreal.

“I do not know how we put together such a perfect Dakar, I never fell once.”

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