Stéphane Peterhansel Wins Overall At 2021 Rally Dakar

This 2021 victory represents the 14th Dakar title for Peterhansel, and the sixth win for MINI. 

The end of the Rally Dakar 2021 on the 15th of January saw Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger clinch the overall title for MINI after two gruelling weeks of rally racing across the Saudi Arabian desert. 

Nicknamed Mr Dakar due to his unprecedented rallying success, the French duo of Peterhansel and Boulanger crossed the line in their Dakar-modified MINI John Cooper Works Buggy with a lead of 14:51 minutes from second place Nasser Al-Attiyah who was racing a Toyota GR Hilux. Fellow X-Raid MINI Buggy duo Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz meanwhile came home to claim third place overall, with a deficit of 1:01:57 from the winners at the end of the 12 stage rally. 

Having claimed his first Dakar title on two wheels in 1991 (with Yamaha) before switching to four wheels after five more wins, this most recent win marks the 55-year old rally driver’s 14th Dakar victory to date. On the same note too, the veteran driver has not only helped MINI defend its Dakar title it earned from the year before, but has also added to the six overall Dakar wins the British marque currently has.

In other Dakar news, Argentina’s Kevin Benavides became the first South American to win the motorcycle category. Leading defending champion and fellow Honda rider Ricky Brabec of the United States by 4:56 at the end of the rally, both riders had managed to deliver the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer’s first 1-2 finish in Dakar since 1987.

On the rally truck front meanwhile, Kamaz took home the category crown for the fifth year in the row with Russian Dmitry Sotnikov on the top step of the podium. Argentinian Manuel Andujar meanwhile claimed victory in the quad-bike class of the 2021 Rally Dakar. 

All these happy news however is marred somewhat by the death of French motorcyclist Pierre Cherpin, who had died from injuries sustained in a crash on the seventh stage of the rally. The race’s first fatality this year, the 52-year old amateur’s unfortunate passing takes the cumulative death toll of the Rally Dakar up to 27, since its inaugural running running back in 1979. 

Running from Yanbu to Jeddah, the 43rd staging of the event is the second time the Rally Dakar was held exclusively in Saudi Arabia. Beginning on the 2nd of January 2021, only 193 vehicles out of the 286 starters finished this 8,000 km rally event this year. 

PRESS RELEASE: Title successfully defended. The MINI John Cooper Works Buggy has won the Rally Dakar for the second time in a row following the 2020 win. This time it was record winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger (FRA) who topped the podium after twelve stages through the Saudi Arabian desert. It was Peterhansel’s 14th overall win at the Dakar, and his third for MINI following his wins in 2012 and 2013. MINI now has a total of six overall wins of the famous endurance rally to its name. Carlos Sainz (ESP) and his co-driver Victor Cruz (ESP), who won in 2020, crossed the finish line in third place with their MINI JCW Buggy this time around.

Peterhansel and Boulanger crossed the finish line of the 43rd edition of the Rally Dakar in Jeddah (KSA) with a lead of 14:51 minutes in the overall standings. The duo only took one stage win, but showed great consistency and didn’t make any major mistakes. Third-placed Sainz and Cruz took three stage wins and had a deficit of 1:01:57 hours to the winners at the end.

Peterhansel added another chapter to his impressive Dakar record. He has now won the rally six times on a motorcycle (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998) and eight times in a car (2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2021). MINI took four consecutive wins with the MINI ALL4 Racing between 2012 and 2015, and now for the second time in a row with the MINI JCW Buggy after 2020.

At this year’s edition, in addition to Peterhansel and Sainz, a third MINI crew finished in the top ten. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) and Dmitry Tsyro (UKR) crossed the finish line in sixth place in the MINI JCW Rally. A total of eight MINI cars competed in Saudi Arabia in 2021, six of which reached the finish line.

Quotes from Rally Dakar 2021:

Stéphane Peterhansel

“I’m over the moon with the win. The pressure was immense since we were leading the overall standings for much of the race. You can only lose in that situation. But I have to say, we drove almost a perfect Dakar without any major errors and once again that was the key to success. Things were perfect between Edouard and me, and I was delighted to have him sat next to me. He couldn’t have done anything better.”

Bernd Körber – Head of the MINI brand

“What a fantastic success for the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, the X-raid team and in particular for Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger. Congratulations on winning the Dakar! Congratulations to Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz as well, who made it onto the podium again after their win in 2020. Second Dakar win in a row, sixth MINI victory since 2012 – everyone in the MINI family can be very proud of this record. In addition to the Buggy, the MINI John Cooper Works Rally with its four-wheel drive did a very good job once again. I’m happy for all the MINI entrants who took on the toughest endurance rally in the world and made it to the finish line. Unfortunately, this success is overshadowed by the tragic accident involving Pierre Cherpin, which affects us all deeply. We wish the relatives every strength.”

Sven Quandt – CEO X-raid

“It’s never easy winning, but this win was particularly difficult since the terrain is very similar to Africa: fast and slow sectors, with lots of stones – topped off by difficult navigation. We’re delighted to have brought home this sixth win for MINI. We didn’t dare dream of first and third place ahead of the Dakar. The past 14 days have been very tiring: leading the overall standings for much of the rally, the tricky navigation and lots of tyre damage. But once again Stéphane showed that it is not without reason that he is Mr. Dakar. He shone on difficult terrain and drove very cleverly strategically. He only got one day win, but a lead of 14 minutes in the overall standings.”

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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