Giniel de Villiers has finally brought to an end Mitsubishi's seven-year domination of the iconic Dakar Rally by winning the 14th stage today to claim his maiden triumph on the arduous event – and Volkswagen's first in almost three decades.
Indeed, the German manufacturer was left with dual reason to celebrate, for not only did de Villiers' success mark an end to a Dakar drought stretching all the way back to Swede Freddy Kottulinksy in a VW Iltis in the rally's second edition in 1980, but Mark Miller came home second to crown a crushing one-two, with the leading Mitsubishi that of Czech pair Miroslay Zapletal and Tomas Ourednicek down in seventh place.
Moreover, the Race Touareg becomes the first diesel engined-machine to win the king of all rally-raids, and de Villiers ended his charge in style by setting the fastest time on the last special stage – but it was not an easy run.
Those used to the Dakar in Africa might still remember the final special stage being a 100km affair and one that was held 'just for the fun of it' on the banks of Lake Rose. This one in the Santa Fé province towards Rosario, the birthplace of a certain Ernesto Guevara, was a far tougher proposition.
The suspense regarding the overall win was diluted somewhat by VW's team orders stipulating that barring any unforeseen circumstances or a serious driving error or problem for de Villiers, Miller was to dutifully play a respectful supporting role and not put any unnecessary pressure on his team-mate, especially given the duo's significant advantage over third-placed Robby Gordon.
de Villiers, however, was clearly in no mood for taking it easy, and the South African had to see off challenges from the BMW X3 of Guerlain Chicherit at CP1 and both Leonid Novitskiy and Krzysztof Holowczyc at CP2.
On fast and windy trails that he knows as well as the sand they are made of, however, the canny 36-year-old was not to be denied, and his fourth stage victory of 2009 – and twelfth of his impressive Dakar career – saw de Villiers cross the finish line just under nine minutes ahead of Miller.
Gordon completed the entirely English-speaking podium with his Team Dakar USA Hummer, with the top six being rounded out in the final reckoning by Ivar Erik Tollefsen, Holowczyc and Dieter Depping, and former Dakar motorcycle winner Joan 'Nani' Roma winding up tenth of the 88 finishers aboard his Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart diesel-engined Lancer.
Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 - Positions on SS14:
1. Giniel de Villiers
Volkswagen Touareg 1hr 35m 43s
2. Leonid Novitsky
BMW X3 CC +0hrs 00m 02s
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc
Nissan Navara +0hrs 00m 17s
4. Nani Roma
Mitsubishi Racing Lancer +0hrs 00m 38s
5. Guerlain Chicherit
BMW X3 CC +0hrs 00m 50s
6. Mark Miller
Volkswagen Touareg +0hrs 06m 39s
Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 – Final Positions:
1. Giniel de Villiers
Volkswagen Touareg 48hrs 10m 57s
2. Mark Miller
Volkswagen Touareg +0hrs 08m 59s
3. Robby Gordon
Hummer H3 +1hrs 46m 15s
4. Ivar Erik Tollefsen
Nissan Navara +6hrs 04m 34s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc
Nissan Navara +6hrs 37m 49s
6. Dieter Depping
Volkswagen Touareg +8hrs 43m 29s