Giniel de Villiers has expressed his relief of winning the 2009 Dakar Rally after finding himself in the right place at the right time during the latter stages of the event.
The South African driver clinched the win for Volkswagen, their first in the modern era of rally raid, after capitalising on Carlos Sainz's retirement in the latter stages of the event.
Embarking on a scrap for the win with team-mate Mark Miller, de Villiers eventually prevailed over the American to come home as one of the few drivers to experience only relatively minor problems throughout.
Even so, de Villiers admits he was nervous about entering the 13th and final stage, pointing out the heartbreaking retirement of Stephane Peterhansel in 2003 so close to the end.
"I'm so happy about having clinched this exploit for Volkswagen,” he said. “This victory is worth more than any of the titles I won in touring car racing. The twelfth leg was the crucial day. Just before it I'd thought we'd be finishing in third place.
“I kept thinking about how our rival Stephane Peterhansel lost the rally with a huge lead one day before the finish in 2003. And so we again led the rally after the twelfth leg as well. The Race Touareg was running absolutely like a charm, and at such a tough edition of the Dakar Rally at that. That was the key to success.
“I want to thank everyone at Volkswagen for this. Even though I've now ended up winning precisely 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.”