The planet’s toughest rally headed back to Jeddah for another fortnight of exhilarating off-road action. There are no easy triumphs on the Dakar, but Stéphane Peterhansel took the lead during stage 3 and the fight for the title was whittled down on the following day to a three-way battle between last year’s top 3. The setbacks encountered by Carlos Sainz meant this soon turned into a duel with Toyota Hilux driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah. However, the Frenchman never faltered and his lead increased during the only stage he won this year, three days from the finish. This was sufficient to earn him his 14th title.
After a very impressive debut with a finish just at the foot of the podium in 2016, Kevin Benavides proved his mettle after a nasty fall broke his nose and damaged his ankle. The South American withstood the attacks during a very tense finish, in which Sam Sunderland remained a threat until the end, as did Ricky Brabec. The American ensured the first one-two finish for Honda since Cyril Neveu and Edi Orioli in 1987.
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