Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah has won the gruelling Dakar Rally for a fourth time after the race through the Saudi Arabian desert came to a climax on Friday.
The 51-year-old – champion in 2011, 2015 and 2019 – took the overall honours ahead of France’s nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.
Al-Attiyah – also a bronze-medallist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics – led the race from start to finish.
Earlier on Friday, British motorbike rider Sam Sunderland had claimed his second Dakar Rally crown.
The Dakar Rally began in 1978 as a race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital but switched to South America in 2009 for security reasons.
One of motorsport’s most dangerous and gruelling events, the rally moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020 and is now in its 44th edition.
Earlier this month, France considered cancelling the Dakar Rally after an explosion that badly injured a French driver.
French prosecutors said they opened a terror attack probe over a December 30 blast targeting a car in Jeddah, which left 61-year-old driver Philippe Boutron needing surgery for serious leg injuries before he returned to France.
“We thought that maybe it’s best to abandon this sporting event … the question remains open,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television, adding that “there was potentially a terror attack against The Dakar”.
All five occupants of the car, including the driver, were French.
One of the passengers, driver Thierry Richard, told the AFP news agency that he had no doubt that the car was targeted deliberately.
“It was an attack, they blew us up,” he said, adding that the incident had felt “like something from a war scene”.
The impact of the blast lifted the car off the ground and it immediately caught fire, Richard said.
“We’re not stupid, we know what an explosion feels like,” he said.
France has warned its citizens in Saudi Arabia to exercise “maximum alertness – security risk” in the wake of the blast.