South Africans Alfie Cox and Giniel de Villiers finished the dramatic 27th Dakar Rally, which ended in Senegal on Sunday, on a high note.

South Africans Alfie Cox and Giniel de Villiers finished the dramatic 27th Dakar Rally, which ended in Senegal on Sunday, on a high note.

This year's event was typified by sandstorms, unpredictable terrain, mechanical failures and the tragic deaths of motorcycle entrants Jose Manuel Perez and Fabrizio Meoni.

On Sunday's final stage, the field drove along the banks of Lac Rose in the traditional finish of the rally, before lining up on the beach where they were greeted by thousands of spectators.

Last year's Car section winner, Stephane Peterhansel took his second consecutive Dakar win on Sunday.

"It's a big satisfaction but also a great relief. Every day was difficult and we improved regularly. I stayed focused until the end," said Peterhansel. "I have to thank my co-driver who didn't do one mistake."

The Mitsubishi driver's main rival was his team-mate, Luc Alphand, who finished the event in second position and handed the manufacturer a one-two finish. This was Mitsubishi’s fifth consecutive victory and tenth overall win, establishing a new Dakar Rally record.

"To arrive on the banks of the Lac Rose is always moving, and even more when you finish second. It's a nice position," commented Alphand. "I tried to fight until the end, team rules had only been given two days ago. It's a tough Dakar due to all the things that happened. I'm actually glad that the Gauloises KTM riders decided to carry on.

The final podium position belonged to Jutta Kleinschmidt, even though her Volkswagen Touareg's mechanical failures in the final stages meant she only finished three-and-a-half hours behind the leader.

"I'm very happy because we've worked hard for this result. Before the rally, we thought that it would be fantastic to have a car on the podium," explained Kleinschmidt. "One shouldn't forget that our team is still young. It's excellent for the future. We're going in the right direction. It was a difficult Dakar this year. I hope that the next course is more balanced with more dunes and less camel grass."

The top Nissan finisher, South African Giniel de Villiers, finished fourth despite winning two of the final five special stages.

In the Bike race, dominated by KTM, the top riders Cyril Despres and Marc Coma rode cautious final stages, knowing that their times would not affect the outcome of the overall competition.

"Yesterday night, I was wondering what feeling I would have on the podium," an emotional Despres said. "If sadness would be bigger than joy. Well, it's mixed. I am very proud of having held my promise by placing a "blue bike" on the highest step of the podium, as we had planned back in December.

"This day has been very emotional. I feel I have accomplished my work but it's hard for me to believe that I have won the Dakar,” he added.

The remaining podium spot was hard-fought as Alfie Cox and Isidre Esteve Pujol battled for third overall. Cox had the edge at the start of the stage and maintained it throughout, finishing in an easy tenth position. The Spaniard raced hard to finish the stage in second position, but still could not gain the final podium position, finishing the event a mere 22 seconds behind the South African.

David Fretigne was the top Yamaha finisher in fifth place.

The Truck competition had a surprise twist on the final day of racing as second overall DAF driver Hans Bekx was excluded from the stage and his points were not included in the final tally. The organisers gave no reasons for the exclusion.

Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) finished the stage in third position and clinched the first overall spot.

With Bekx's expulsion, veteran driver Yoshimasa Sugawara moved up to second position on the standings, while the equally consistent Giacomo Vismara finished third.

"It's magical. This second spot was really unexpected. With our little truck, it's almost a miracle," expressed Yoshimasa Sugawara. "Our vehicle was very reliable and I used my experience at the good moment."