Peugeot has done it. 26 years since Ari Vatanen crossed the dusty line in a well-worn 405, the French firm has once again won the most gruelling off-road race in the world: the Dakar Rally.
But before you get too excited and start popping bottles of fizz to the ‘Allo ‘Allo! theme tune, we’d like to add that it’s yet to be set in stone.
Why? Well the winner, Stéphane ‘Mr Dakar’ Peterhansel, is only provisionally wearing the Dakar crown as he’s currently under investigation for illegally refuelling on one of the stages.
The 12-time Dakar winner (six on two wheels, and one four) topped up his tank halfway through a stage, which the rival Mini X-Raid team believes to be an infringement.
Peugeot’s big boss Bruno Famin claims the refuelling point was listed in the road book, while the Mini X-Raid team argue this was only for bikes and quads.
Officials have since concluded that, because the rules were open to interpretation, Peterhansel was in the clear. Something the Mini team doesn’t agree with, so have appealed the Frenchman’s victory.
Were Peterhansel to be eventually penalised or disqualified, leading X-raid Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah would have the Dakar crown.
Even so, Peugeot had a more successful time than their first attempt last year.
The new, lower, wider, more powerful and less fall over-y 2008DKR16 won nine of the 13 stages.
It was Dakar rookie Sébastien Loeb who set the pace and the first Pug pilot to claim a stage win. But veterans Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz weren’t far behind as they had six one-twos and two one-two-threes over the first six stages.
With a route that takes 15 days to complete, covers 9596km and sees the 350 competitors loop from Buenos Aires, into Bolivia before returning back to Argentina, the second half of the rally started to take its toll on the Peugeot team.
Loeb and his long-time co-driver Daniel Elena struggled on the sandy dunes before having a costly roll on Stage 8. It was a pretty big one that, er, rearranged the car’s design quite heavily and resulted in him losing the lead and being unable to finish any higher than ninth overall.
There was worse luck for Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard had to have an early bath after Stage 10 having broken a strut between the engine and gearbox that eventually called time on his rally.
At the finish line in Rosario, a total of 218 vehicles (84 motorcycles, 23 quads, 67 cars and 44 trucks) managed to roll on to the 2016 finish podium. For both vehicles and pilots, blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of dust was washed off their weary bodywork before a well-earned rest. And maybe a few beers.
Aside from Peterhansel’s win – exactly 25 years after his maiden victory –notable finishers include WRC maestro but Dakar rookie Mikko Hirvonen who pulled in fifth, while fan favourite Nani Roma finished seventh and British rising star and Dakar debutant, Harry Hunt, rounded off the top 10.
The Dakar Rally offers some rather excellent pictorial opportunities. So we’ve gathered up a few of our favourites for your benefit that should help bide your time while we wait for the official outcome of the race. That could be a couple of months, so we’ll keep you in the loop and update you as and when a ruling is reached.