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The Best and the Worst from the 2017 Dakar Rally

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 18 January 2017
The 39th edition of the Dakar Rally reached its climax in Rio Cuarto, Argentina, with Stéphane Peterhansel heading the field in the car class by just over five minutes and Sam Sunderland becoming the first British winner in the motorbike class. After two weeks of relentless action, here are some of the highs and lows of 2017’s event.

Biggest crash

Crashes are, of course, commonplace. This year, Carlos Sainz, who was looking like he was going to take lead in the process, managed to just miss a group of spectators as he rolled into a ravine in spectacular fashion. Understandably, Sainz didn’t continue after the enormous crash and thankfully the spectators walked away unscathed.

Stephane Peterhansel of Team Peugeot Total races during stage 3 from Tucuman to Jujuy, Argentina | © Red Bull Content Pool
Stephane Peterhansel of Team Peugeot Total races during stage 3 from Tucuman to Jujuy, Argentina | © Red Bull Content Pool

Best spectators

And speaking of spectators, the crowds that filled the finish of stage four in Tupiza, with Bolivian flags all the way from the finish to the horizon, were spectacular. More of this stage later.

Most dramatic stage finish

Like Sainz, another driver whose race finished early was Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari man, and winner of two overall Dakar titles, had won the opening stage of this year’s event but flames licked his vehicle’s left wheel case after the intense heat and an oil leak combined together as he approached the finish line of stage three.

Worst Day

Within just 24 hours of each other, the race lost three of its most celebrated entrants. As well as as Al-Attiyah and Sainz, motorcyclist Toby Price was also forced to retire. Price’s departure was the most physically damaging, breaking his femur in four places in a crash caused when he hit a rock.

Sebastien Loeb of Team Peugeot TOTAL races during stage 5 from Tupiza to Oruro, Bolivia | © Red Bull Content Pool
Sebastien Loeb of Team Peugeot TOTAL races during stage 5 from Tupiza to Oruro, Bolivia | © Red Bull Content Pool

Biggest washout

Two stages were called off as a result of the weather: stages six and nine. But the thunderstorms on the route led to a massive landslide, which caused the immediate cancellation of the stage from Salta to Chilecito with just four days left of the rally.

Most popular win

Pablo Copetti and Walter Nosiglia can share this award. Both in front of their home crowds, Copetti proved triumphant on his quad in Argentina on stage two, while the Bolivian flag waving mentioned earlier was mainly because of Nosiglia entering Tupiza at the end of stage four in front of the rest of the field.

Most sporting

On stage 10, everything was on the line for Stéphane Peterhansel, who had yet another Dakar victory firmly in his sights. However, early on in the stage he collided with biker Simon Marcic, while both were lost and away from the official route. The 12-time winner stayed with the Slovenian rider, who had a broken leg, for around 15 minutes until medical assistance arrived. The Peugeot driver finished nearly seven minutes behind Sébastien Loeb but event organisers gave him the time back after his act of sportsmanship.

Mohamed Abu Issa of X-Raid Team races during stage 10 from Chilecito to San Juan, Argentina| © Red Bull Content Pool
Mohamed Abu Issa of X-Raid Team races during stage 10 from Chilecito to San Juan, Argentina | © Red Bull Content Pool

Best duel

Peterhansel again. In an event that covers hundreds and hundreds of kilometres on each stage, it was only a matter of seconds, and sometimes even less that separated Peterhansel from Loeb, the grand master of the World Rally Championship. The only disappointment was that the contest had to end.

Best all-rounder

Competing in the Dakar is one thing, doing it in multiple vehicle categories is quite another. So, special mention must go out to Kees Koolen, who may not have won the quad class he was competing in, but did win stage five. The Dutchman has now competed in four category classes. Incredible.

Most patient

Motorbike rider Sam Sunderland must have thought his time would never come. He first entered the Dakar in 2012 but was undone by mechanical failure on stage two. He was forced to retire from his other two Dakars with another mechanical and a crash, while crashes twice denied him from even taking to the start line. On Saturday, he finally finished the event…and in first place!