MARC COMA, THE DESERT PRINCE BECOMES WORLD CHAMPION

After the Rally Dubai, the Repsol rider gets back home with the 2005 Cross Country Rally World Championship title

At the start of the 2005 season it was not one of his targets in the short-term, but with almost one month left for the 2006 Dakar Rally, Marc Coma has made one of his dreams come true: becoming 2005 Cross Country Rally World Champion. At the age of 28, this young rider hopes that the title won't be a full stop for a new paragraph in his career but a full stop and continue in order to add further successful results. The immediate target is the Dakar. A race he will reach with the expected job done after a season where he has had an impeccable performance. Despite the battery of his KTM playing a dirty trick on him during the first leg of the UAE Desert Challenge, Marc Coma and his team managed to recover. Yesterday, after six days of competition, the Repsol rider reached the finish in Dubai in second position, allowing him to score the necessary points to become World Champion.

Is the Rally World Championship a dream come true?

"I had been dreaming of a World Championship title since I was a little boy and now I've made it. It's been incredible, but I guess that I will really come to terms with it after a couple of days. This title is the result of many years of effort and hard work, not only mine but of many other people. It is a title we've all won; the team, the bike, sponsors like Repsol, who have always supported me, and all those who have been with me in good and bad times. Now we're reaping the reward after all we have done these years. What we have to do now is to continue following this line to continue reaping, because there are several targets yet to be achieved."

There have been some very good and some not so good moments, but you were able to recover.

"Having an electrical problem we had already suffered in Egypt made things more complicated from the first day. But fortunately I have a great team around me that worked hard to find the source of the problem and fix it. I made jokes with my team-mates telling them that I would grow old in two days. But jokes aside, I think that it was even good. It helped us to forget about fighting for the victory of the race and focus on what was our real aim: the World Championship. Apart from the battery incident we did not have any other problem and the rest has been only joy."

What came to your mind when the problem appeared in the first leg?

"At first I thought that it just couldn't be possible to have such a bad luck. We had been working really hard throughout the season and we had been just about to loose the Egypt Rally for the same reason. But then, thinking it over I realised that we had actually been lucky. First because my team-mate Jordi Duran arrived quickly to help me. Second because it happened in the first leg, and next because it helped us to see everything clear from that moment on."

Could you say that this race has been a good training for the Dakar Rally?

"Of course, the UAE Desert Challenge is an ideal training, especially as regards navigation and dunes, but it's also important to be competitive in all rounds of the championship. What makes the Dakar different is its extreme roughness. It involves almost 20 days racing, while the World Championship rounds are only five to ten days long. The legs are also much longer. In Dubai, the longest leg had 500 kms, but in the Dakar we've even had 1,000 kms-long legs."

In Dubai, you raced against the rider who is going to be your big rival at the Dakar, how have you seen Cyril Despres?

"Cyril is the current Dakar Champion, and that is why he's going to be the man to be beaten and my highest rival. He won in Dubai and proved that he's in good shape too, but so are we and we'll fight to beat him."

Which has been the best moment of the season?

"Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life, but it's difficult to choose one; too many things go through my mind. I think that I would keep the image of a close team we have shown everybody. We are very close, we work great together and, apart from understanding each other very well, we've also suffered a lot together. I think that this is the source of our success."

Would you also say that this has been the best year of your sports career?

"It's been so far, yes, the results are good proof of it. We started as runner-ups in the Dakar and we've clinched the World Championship. Although I hope that 2006 will be even better."

Do you face the Dakar Rally in a different way with the World Championship in your pocket?

"The best way to reach the Dakar is obviously as the World Champion. But not only because of the title as such and the morale it gives you, it is also the way we have been working. We've been working impeccably throughout the year and we've been competitive in all championship rounds we've participated, and that's very important. I'm also in a fantastic physical shape and both the bike and the team are working great. We reach the Dakar as we never had before, but it's a long and complicated race where many factors play a significant role. We will do all we can to have them on our side."

You have won prestigious races such as the Baja Aragon, the Rally Sardinia, several rounds of the World Championship, the World Championship... What is there left to achieve?

"My big challenge is with no doubt the Dakar Rally. It's my immediate target and I've been fighting for it for a long time. It's a hard and treacherous race, but we are in a great moment and we'll try to do everything we can to make it."

This year has been a very good year for Spain as regards World Champions in off-road classes, but all of you agree in saying that the institutions treat you as "offenders"

"The World Championship titles achieved by Ivan Cervantes in Enduro, Laia Sanz and Adam Raga in trial, me in raids... it just so happens the some offenders of this country are World Champions. Our success promotes sports among youngsters and I think that this is always something positive. Institutions recognise our success on the one side, but on the other, they make it difficult for us to practice. We know that we have to be conscious about the environment, we've always been, and that there should be limited areas to practice our sport, but I think that there is a place for everything in this world. I know that they are working now in order to solve this problem and I hope they do, to be able to keep on enjoying these sports and new titles and champions in the future."

Which are you next plans in the short-term?

"I was looking forward to getting back home, because these days have been exhausting. I'm dying to get home, celebrate my title with my family and friends, and obviously have some rest before continuing with the preparation of the Dakar. We have planned to do some tests in Tunisia and Morocco to finish setting-up the bike and the team and also to practice, practice, practice. The least we can do now is to relax."

-repsol-