Coma snaps another Dakar stage victory; increases overall lead after Stage 10
KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain emerged as the winner of the Dakar’s Stage 10 on Wednesday after negotiating 176 km of timed special in the white dunes around Fiambala back in Argentina. The day took riders back over the Andes ahead of the final three stages. KTM’s Cyril Despres was second in the stage but now trails his Spanish rival by just over 18 minutes.
The stage, which included a big 862 km ride on the road before riders had to tackle another tricky loop course, much of it sand that has earned respect from riders in earlier Dakars in this part of the world. While Coma is out in front after a day that could be decisive in this year’s rally, it was also a positive day for KTM riders in general. Despres teammate Ruben Faria was third at the finish, followed by KTM privateer Milan Stanovnik of Slovenia to give KTM the top four finishers while KTM rider Henk Knuiman of the Netherlands was sixth and Coma’s water carrier, Juan Pedrero of Spain finished eighth giving the Austrian brand six of the top eight finishers. The overall standings are also looking positive for KTM with again six from the top eight riding KTM machines.
Eventful day for Despres
It was certainly an eventful day for title holder Despres, who already has three Dakar trophies to his credit. Coma and Despres have been too close for comfort on either side so far so Despres made a flying start to try to put some distance between himself and his Spanish rival but while opening the track he made a navigational mistake approaching the dunes. “I made a first big mistake after 120 km while I was riding well,” he said “I read 17 instead of 117 on the navigation and I ended up in the rocks with Verhoeven. We already lost lots of time there, but then in the last few kilometers I made another mistake, turned round and fell into a mud hole. It was impossible to get back out.” Cyril said it took him 10 minutes to extract himself from the mud hole and this was reflected in the final result. “I thought I was going to lose even more time. It's a bad day, but that's rally raids for you, some days are good, some are bad”.
Locked in battle
Coma and Despres have been locked in battle throughout the rally and neither of these two winners will concede any time to the other until they are both across the line in Buenos Aires on Sunday but today did give Coma a bigger edge than he has had so far in this, the 33rd edition. Despres must now be on the defensive in the remaining three stages to try to claw back time and reduce the time deficit.
Still more challenges to come
Organizers have promised a fabulous series of canyons at the foothills of the Andes for Stage 11 tomorrow as the riders have another very long 722 km special after 164 km of liaison. But neither of the two KTM rivals will be out to look at the scenery as they fight tooth and nail for victory on the stretch between Chilecito and San Juan. The field in the motorcycle category has now trimmed from 186 starters to 103 for Stage 10 and the gap between the two elite KTM riders and the rest of the field continues to increase.
This is the first Dakar for the newly released KTM 450 Dakar Rally bike, which was especially developed with input from Despres and Coma after the Dakar organizers changed the regulations in the middle of 2009 to specify that professional riders must compete on a bike of only 450 ccm. The unexpected introduction of the new regulation came after rider contracts were settled and bikes constructed for the 2010 edition and last year Coma and Despres had to compete with power restrictors fitted to the larger KTM 690 Rally bike. Despres still won the rally and gave KTM its ninth title. Coma and Despres have between them taken all five past rallies and are looking increasingly likely to be up with the leaders when the race concludes on Sunday.