(By Eloy Jorge/CNA). -Two Catalans, Laia Sanz and Marc Coma, made history this weekend at the end of the Dakar Rally 2015. The 29 year-old Catalan rider, Laia Sanz, finished the race in ninth position, the best place for a woman of all time. Motorbike rider Marc Coma won his fifth Dakar, equalling the five titles of French drivers Cyril Neveu and Cyril Despres. Coma is now the second driver with the most triumphs in the category, just one victory less than Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel.
In addition, Catalonia had a large representation in this edition, with racers in all four categories, especially in motorbikes. Almost half of the 25 Catalan racers that started the Rally on the 4th of January made it to Buenos Aires last Saturday, after covering 9,000 kilometres in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
The Dakar Rally 2015 finished last Saturday after fourteen days of competition and after thirteen stages. More than 400 vehicles took part in the race, but just 53% made it to the end. Catalonia had a large representation with 25 racers: 9 in motorbikes, 9 car drivers and co-drivers, 6 people divided into different truck teams and 1 competitor in quads. Eleven of them made it to Buenos Aires, an excellent result considering the difficulty of the race.
Marc Coma and Laia Sanz triumph in Motorbikes
Only three of the nine Catalan motorbike riders that started the Dakar Rally finished, but the ones that have completed it have achieved their goals. After a very regular race, Marc Coma won his fifth Dakar Rally, his second consecutive victory and now goes into the Dakar history books, as the second driver with more victories. The racer, who is 38 years old, was born in Avià, a little town in the Berguedà County, in Central Catalonia.
Coma took advantage of the problems of his main rival, the Valencian Joan Barreda, who had led the race until his accident on the eighth stage.
Laia Sanz also made history by finishing in the top 10 of the race. In her fifth appearance at the Dakar Rally, Sanz has achieved the best overall ranking for a woman of the 36 rally editions, by finishing ninth.
The 29 year-old Catalan driver has beaten the Frenchwoman Christine Martin, who finished tenth in 1981. Sanz is a very popular racer in Catalonia not only for her successes at Dakar, but also for having won the Enduro World Championship 13 times. In addition, the third Catalan to finish the race in the motorbike category was also a woman. Rosa Romero, who is the wife of double Dakar winner Joan “Nani” Roma, finished the race for the first time after four appearances. She finished 52nd.
Bad luck for Nani Roma
As for cars, the Dakar 2014 winner, the Catalan driver Joan “Nani” Roma, lost all his chances to win at the tenth kilometre of the race, when his Mini suffered oil pressure problems and stopped working. Roma and his co-driver, the Frenchman Michel Périn, recovered from these first day problems and managed to win the ninth stage. However, Dakar 2015 was not to be his year and the Mini was disqualified after an accident on stage 10.
Two Catalan drivers made it to Buenos Aires: Xavi Foj, who drove for Toyota and finished 52nd, and Àlex Haro, co-driver for another team. Haro and his driver, the Andorran Albert Llovera, finished 41st, but they also managed to finish the race. This was the third attempt for the Andorran driver, who is paraplegic after a skiing accident.
Catalonia made further history at Dakar 2015. Two Catalans, Albert Bosch and Agustín Payá, managed to complete two stages with the Acciona 100% Eco Powered, a completely electric buggy.
Success for trucks
Six Catalan drivers participated for four different teams, and the four trucks completed the race. The best was co-driver Ferran Marco, who helped the Czech Ales Loprais to finish fourth. In addition, some veteran Catalans completed Dakar 2015: Pep Vila (12 appearances), Jordi Juvanteny (24 appearances) and Enric Gonzàlez (18 appearances).