Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Pablo Quintanilla of Chile wrapped up his 2016 Dakar Rally on Saturday on a high note with a victory in the final stage 13 that also secured him third overall in this long and difficult rally raid. Quintanilla competed the final stage in one hour 15.27 to finish in the overall rankings behind Toby Price of Australia and Slovakia's Stefan Svitko.
"The last stage was extremely hard. There was a lot of tension and nerves before the start. The entire race came down to this one stage. I started fast and, thanks to today and the team's work we defended our third place. I'm delighted. It was such a tough Dakar that we had to fight for the podium the last day, which is usually an opportunity to kick back and relax. For me, the last stage was the toughest, the most nerve-wracking one in the entire rally. I was hurt before the rally, but professional work helps you overcome that. The investment paid off today."
Riders covered more than 9,000km in this year's edition that took them on a broad sweep through Argentina and Bolivia. Quintanilla was never out of the top ten in any stage, and made the top five in five of the 13 stages. His third place in his fourth time out in this annual rally raid was also his best yet Dakar finish - and his first riding as a Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider.
It as also an excellent result for Husqvarna-supported Jacopo Cerutti of Italy, who came into the entry list via a good result in the Dakar Challenge series. Cerutti said before the race that his goal was to finish, and not in last position. The young Italian far exceeded that modest goal. He showed constant improvement as the rally progressed, doing particularly well in the final four stages. Cerutti was 15th overall at the finish in Rosario. The Italian comes from enduro sports and had a confidence building tenth place finish in the Morocco Rally in October ahead of his first Dakar ride.
The final stage took riders from villa Carlos Paz to Rosario but the end result came quite quickly because the timed special was at the beginning of Stage 13, after which riders had to continue the rest of the 699km distance to the ceremonial finish.
The Dakar 2016 was confronted with many difficulties. In the planning stage both Chile and Peru withdrew from the competition because they rightly anticipated possible severe weather disruptions from the El Nino weather effect. This left Argentina and Bolivia on the program, but even these countries felt the negative force of the recurring weather phenomenon. Thunderstorms and floods plagued the rally, particularly the first week, and intense temperatures in the second week resulted in several stages being shortened. In Bolivia riders competed at altitudes of up to 4,500 m and while the first half of the rally was very fast, stages got increasingly complicated, with much more navigation in the second week.