Peterhansel and Despres seal wins
DAKAR, Senegal -- Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel clinched his second straight Dakar Rally title in the car category, adding to his six wins in the motorcycle race, when the event finished in Senegal's capital Sunday.
Fellow Frenchman and former champion downhill skier Luc Alphand, also in a Mitsubishi, finished second overall, 27:14 behind. Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt was in third.
Cyril Despres of France won the motorbike section that was marred by the deaths of two competitors.
A minutes silence was held before the final stage for Italy's Fabrizio Meoni and Jose Manuel Perez of Spain.
"This second victory is a confirmation of my new status as a car driver," Peterhansel said, smiling widely as he emerged from his vehicle covered in dust.
KTM rider Despres won from Marc Coma of Spain, also on a KTM, was second, 9:45 back.
Russia's Firdaus Kabirov won in the truck category in 71:13:55. His nearest competitor, Japan's Katsumi Hamura, was 6:04:19 behind.
The 27th edition of the race kicked off New Year's Eve in Barcelona, Spain and covered 8,956 kilometers (5,566 miles), including 5,431 kilometers (3,375 miles) of 16 special stages.
Snaking through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal, the two-week rally ended Sunday with a 37-kilometer (23-mile) stage that ran from West Africa's Atlantic Ocean beaches to Lac Rose, a pink lake just east of Dakar that takes its unique color from a type of algae.
France's Bruno Saby won the car category's final stage Sunday in 19 minutes, with fellow Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi 20 seconds behind. Peterhansel finished the last leg in 11th place, 3:09 behind Saby.
The punishing race, featuring vast stretches of open desert, steep dunes, oak forests and rocky mountain passes, has a reputation for ruthlessness.
Some 465 cars, trucks and motorcycles started this year, but by Sunday, only 216 were still in the rally, the rest having broken down or crashed.
Italian hero Meoni had told Despres that this year's rally would be his last and the Frenchman shed tears after crossing the finish line out of sadness at Meoni's death.
"In December we made a promise that at least one of our bikes would be on the podium," Depres said. "When I crossed the finish line, I didn't know whether I would be sad or happy. But I can tell you that it's a mixture of those two feelings."
Despres said Meoni's passing wouldn't stop him from participating again.
"We're all here because we love the desert, the dunes and the competition," Despres said. "So I will definitely continue."
Peterhansel, also a motorbike veteran, acknowledged the race's dangers.
"Before entering the race you know there are a lot of risks," he said. "And every rider accepts the risks."
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