KTM factory riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres continued their dominance of the Dakar 2012 on Wednesday finishing second and third in Stage 10. Spanish rider Joan Barreda took his first career stage victory, breaking the stage victory run by the two KTM rivals who continue to battle it out for the overall lead. They are both vying for their fourth Dakar Rally title.
Despres sprang back from adversity on Tuesday after getting stuck in a mud hole on Monday to take his third stage victory in Stage Nine. He opened the road today as riders tackled more than their fair share of sand in Chile’s coastal deserts on the way from Iquique to Arica right on the Chilean-Peruvian border.
In this increasingly tight two-way battle it was Coma who prevailed on Wednesday and he finished one minute 32 seconds behind the leader. Despres, who expended a great deal of energy on Tuesday in his passionate ride to win Stage Nine, sacrificed some valuable time. He now leads the overall standings for this 9,000 km race from Mar del Plata on the Atlantic coast of Argentina to Peru on the Pacific Coast by just 21 seconds.
Stage 10 sent riders on 317 km of liaison sections and a timed special of 377 km. They started in the sand dunes then would up the day again dealing with the dreaded fesh-fesh, the power-fine dust feared by all.
Navigation was again an issue for the riders and even Despres and Coma were reported to have made a small detour at the beginning of the timed special at the 161 km mark. They were not the only ones to fall into navigation traps as the day progressed and both are very aware that such a slip can cost them the title. Among riders to head north instead of northeast at the 238 km mark were KTM support riders Rubin Faria and Joan Pedrero and KTM riders Felipe Zanol and Gerard Farres Guell. As Coma and Despres fight it out for what would be KTM’s eleventh Dakar, the Spanish rider said at the end of the stage that the race will now “hinge on the smallest of margins”.
“It’s the tone that’s been set for the rally and I think we’ll keep on battling until the end. We keep trying to make the difference all the time and the entry into Peru will be decisive. The race will hinge on the smallest of margins. When the performance level is equivalent with the same team and the same bike, it’s very difficult, both for him (Despres) and for me. But when it comes to the crunch, it will be entirely up to either one rider or the other.”
Despres agreed saying: “At this level, every second counts. It’s a scenario that I thought might happen, so I’m not surprised. I’m just happy to have got through another day. In any case, staying out in front for the whole 377 km while riding flat out isn’t easy. If I finish in his (Coma’s) dust or him in mine, it doesn’t change that much.”
While Despres and Coma have been the dominant Dakar riders since the world’s toughest rally moved to South America in 2009, tomorrow they will enter new territory. The fourth South America edition of the Dakar moves into a third country, Peru. They now have to negotiate their way through the region of the famous Nazcar Lines territory and on to the finish at Lima.
Stage 11 is to be split into two times sections and while riders will be permitted to work on their machines at the half way mark, their support crews will not be able to assist them. Organizers say this this move was to inspire the “The Spirit of the Dakar” among competitors, forcing them to share tools and advice on mechanical matters. This maintenance method was also deployed in Morocco during the 2007 Dakar.