That Time Ari Vatanen Lost the Dakar Rally Because His Peugeot Got Stolen for Ransom

Plus, four other Dakar Rally moments somehow crazier than the race itself.

The 2021 Dakar Rally hosted by Saudi Arabia is already past its halfway marker, and after eight stages and some 440 miles covered, the battle in the top T1 car class is between Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Hilux truck driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah, and the Xraid’s Mini JWC piloted by Carlos Sainz and Stéphane Peterhansel. For the time being, Prodrive’s brand new Ian Callum-designed BRX Hunters with Nani Roma and Sébastien Loeb are further behind.

While the 43rd edition of this off-road endurance race unfolds, a video by Red Bull dug into the archives to take a look at five of the Dakar’s defining moments since the first run began in 1979.

2016: Sébastien Loeb Throws It All Away With 12 Miles to Go

Nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb made his debut at the Dakar in 2016, the year when the then-South American event started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, only to run through Bolivia before returning to Argentina for the finish. The pair of Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena did very well with their Peugeot up until late-race issues and had to settle for 9th overall. The race was won by Stéphane Peterhansel with his better-behaving Peugeot 2008 DKR.

2010: Mark Miller Gets Lost in Chile

Volkswagen Motorsport scored a 1-2-3 in 2010 thanks to Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mark Miller, yet not before the American got lost in the vulcanic sand somewhere between the Chilian port towns of Iquique and Antofagasta. Luckily, he had seven more stages to make up for the lost time, resulting in his P3 after coming second a year earlier, also with VW. Too bad Volkswagen Motorsport is getting dissolved as we speak.

2009: Carlos Sainz Goes Upside Down

After 217 motorcycles, 25 all-terrain vehicles, 177 cars, and 81 trucks left Buenos Aires during stage 12, pack leader Carlos Sainz rolled his Volkswagen Toureg into a ravine, injuring his co-pilot Michel Perin’s shoulder. With the Spaniard and his French co-driver out of the race, the 31st Dakar Rally went to their teammates Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller, while third place was grabbed by Robby Gordon driving a “Hummer.”

1988/1994: The Dunes Wreak Havoc

Long distances over the sand dunes of North Africa can often lead to nowhere. In 1988, the 461-mile special stage in Algeria between Djanet and Djado was first renamed “Hell” by the participants who pretty much all got lost in the dark, and then cancelled due to the refuelling trucks also not being able to reach their positions.

1994 Citroën ZX Rally Raid, Wikimedia Commons | Thesupermat

Six years later in 1994, deep in Mauritania, the Sahara between Atar and Nouhadibou represented a 391-mile special forced Mitsubishi driver Bruno Saby to get out of his car and get it unstuck over 200 times. Eventually, it was decided that all should avoid the dunes and ignore checkpoint No. 8, even if it meant a five-hour penalty. Luckily, Pierre Lartigue and Michel Périn where still there to score victory with their Citroën ZX Rally Raid.

1988: Ari Vatanen’s Peugeot 405 T16 Is Stolen for Ransom

Long before running Scuderia Ferrari and becoming the president of the FIA, Jean Todt was the chief of Peugeot Talbot Sport. As such, during the 14th stage in 1988 at Bamako, he got a call in the morning from someone demanding 25 million francs in exchange for Ari Vatanen’s apparently “kidnapped” race car. The Finn automatically got disqualified for not arriving at the start within 30 minutes of his departure time, only to finish the stage at eighth once his 405 T16 Rally Raid was found. With the suspension upheld, overall victory went to fellow Finn Juha Kankkunen, who drove the older Peugeot 205 T16.

Ari Vatanen would have his revenge in the 405 by winning both the 1989 and 1990 event, just in time for Peugeot to let Citroën continue the company’s reign at the Dakar. In 1988, Vatanen famously also won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, driving a 405 packing bigger wings.

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