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De Villiers, Coma win Dakar

GINIEL De Villiers held onto his nerves in the last stage to become the first South African to win the Dakar Rally on Saturday.

De Villiers went into the 14th stage with only a two-minute lead over Volkswagen teammate Mark Miller of the United States, and secured the victory by finishing first from Cordoba across the pampas into Buenos Aires, where the first Dakar Rally started two weeks ago.

After more than 48 hours of racing over 9,000 kilometers through Argentina and Chile, over the Andes and through the Atacama Desert, De Villiers and German co-pilot Dirk von Zitzewitz ended up winning by just under nine minutes from Miller, who placed sixth on the stage.

"This is an incredible feeling," De Villiers said. "Even though I've ended up winning the Dakar that was not staged in Africa, which is home to me, it was definitely a genuine Dakar Rally, and the toughest edition I've ever contested."

Marc Coma of Spain won his second motorbike title in three years in a cruise. Coma led by more than 20 minutes after the opening stage two weeks ago, and extended it to nearly 90 over previous titleholder Cyril Despres of France.

De Villiers' victory also marked the first by a diesel-powered car, and was VW's second title - first since 1980 - ending Mitsubishi rule since 2001. Of a possible 13 stage wins, VW won 10, with De Villiers claiming four and Carlos Sainz six.

De Villiers regained the overall lead on Thursday after dominating teammate Sainz, the two-time world rally champion, crashed.

Winning that 12th stage was the key to victory. He took it easy on Friday but sped in the 227km across the flat and wind-swept pampas in 1:35:43, just two seconds better than Leonid Novitskiy of Russia.

Coma was an easy sixth on the last stage, won by Helder Rodrigues of Portugal. The Spaniard said he was ready to sit back and enjoy his win after more than 52 hours on his KTM bike.

"There were so many days of racing, so much work, I am really very happy," he said. "It was a very tough race. We did not know the terrain too well and it was therefore hard to have a good race strategy."


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