The young Repsol rider is making big steps towards winning the Cross Country Rallies World Championship in Dubai, heading for his fifth participation in the Dakar
Just arrived from Egypt after winning Egypt's Pharaohs' Rally, Marc Coma is now enjoying his leadership in the Cross Country Rallies World Championship at home. At the age of 28, the Spanish rider from Avià has become one of the best raid riders both on national and international level. Marc may win the world championship title in November, at the last scoring round of the championship, the UAE Desert Challenge, to be staged in Dubai, although his main aim, as well as the aim of the KTM Repsol Team, is the big African challenge, the Dakar, a race that he will be facing this time as one of the main favourites. The experience and maturity gathered in the latest seasons will contribute to face his main challenge with certain guarantees.
After last year, where all of you retired following Richard Sainct's death, how was the experience at the Pharaohs' Rally this year?
"Very positive. The penalties with the GPS and the fright with the battery on the last day made us some trouble, but all in all we can say that the rally went quite good. At the beginning, things seemed to be more complicated due to the several mishaps, but fortunately we were able to solve everything and move on. In the end we managed to get a good result."
You were not able to finish the Nevada 1000 due to mechanical problems, and although you had a strong start at the Baja Aragon, you had to give up again due to mechanical problems. What did you think about when the battery began to fail on the last leg of the Egypt Rally?
"First you think "how can this be happening to me", but you react immediately and try to solve it as quickly as possible. Those are moments of high tension, but the truth is that everybody reacted really well. We all did our jobs, both riders and team, and everything went well thanks to the co-operation. We gave a great team image."
This year's Egypt Rally has been characterized by penalties due to problems with the way points and the GPS. Do you think that these problems may show up again in Dubai or even at the Dakar?
"The regulation applied in Egypt is a complex regulation, to be applied rather to cars than to motorbikes and that's why there was a bit of confusion. It is a regulation that does not explain 100% of all situations you can be faced with on a motorbike, and therefore there may be several different interpretations. I don't think there will be any problems at all at the Dakar, because it's a different regulation, but the situation may be similar in Dubai. We'll have to be more careful."
You are leading the Cross Country Rallies World Championship with an advantage of 10 points over Casteu and 22 over Desprès. Will Dubai be a mere formality or does the saying "nothing is decided until you cross the finish line" have even more sense in this case?
"All raids are complicated, that's something we know very well from experience. None of them has ever been easy, and we'll have to be even more concentrated in Dubai. I'll do my own race, as I've always done, without caring about the others. I'll try to be completely focussed and do my job the best I can, and, if everything works out well, the result will come out. I'll surely be tenser, considering what we are racing for and what we can achieve."
What aspect would you say you have improved compared to last year?
"I'd say all aspects. The training we've had since the last Dakar has been extraordinary. A lot of tests, the Baja Aragon, the Sardinia Rally, the Nevada 1000, three rounds of the World Championship and one ahead... I have grown in all aspects: physically, mentally and as a rider. But if there is an aspect where I have improved more than any other, it is navigation. Now I feel much more comfortable than before and that allows me to feel more confident and be faster."
Last year there were two of you leading the KTM Repsol Team, but this year you will be the number one rider. Does this involve additional pressure or an advantage as regards team work?
"Personally, nothing changes. Last year I did my race and I knew that if I was in the front, the team would work for me. It will be the same this year. I'll give it all to be in the front and if I manage to do so, the team will do everything possible to help me if I'm in trouble, as they already did in Egypt."
How does your schedule look like from now until the UAE Desert Challenge? Some holidays?
"This is a time of the year where we hardly ever have a break. We are in the middle of the final straight of the World Championship and the Dakar is around the corner. I'm going to have some rest, leaving the bike aside but doing workout. As I said, we've had an intense but organised working plan since last Dakar. For Dubai, we'll work harder on the physical aspect leaving the bike aside and then we'll do some race-training on the bike. What we don't want to do is to wear out too early. We'll have enough time to do that."
Do you already know who will be joining you in Dubai? "There's nothing decided yet, but we think that we'll be the same as in Egypt."
What would you say, at what fitness percentage are you right now?
"It's difficult to give a number, to assess something like that with a number, but I think that I'm at a 85% and increasing. Enough to reach the Dakar at the top."
You have always considered the World Championship as a training for the Dakar, both personal and for the team, but becoming World Champion isn't bad at all, is it?
"Well, the truth is that it wouldn't be bad. I'm sure that any rider would like to be world champion, and I won't be less. I'd really love to take this title, because it would be like reaping the reward of our hard work, both personal and as a team. Achieving good results and being rewarded is something that motivates everybody. It would be a good way to start the Dakar."
Once the Championship is over, there be little more than a month for the start of the Lisbon-Dakar, who do you think will be your strongest rivals?
"With no doubt the same as last year: Cyril Desprès and Isidre Esteve. David Fretigne, with the Yamaha is improving a lot and he's becoming a hard rival too. Casteu is having a good progression, as well as De Gavardo. They aren't favourites but we'll have to bear them in mind."
Isidre Esteve as a rival, strange feeling or just another rider on the track?
"I respect and admire him a lot as a person and as a rider. We've always been rivals. The difference is that we were wearing the same Repsol colours before and now we won't. It will be a strange feeling, but we shouldn't attach too much importance to it."