KTM's Cyril Despres wins Stage 2 of Dakar 2011; leads standings
Cyril Despres, closely shadowed throughout the day by his eternal nemesis and fellow KTM factory rider Marc Coma, emerged the winner of Stage Two of the 33rd edition of the Dakar Rally on Monday as riders took on the challenge from Cordoba to San Miguel as they head north through Argentina on this epic 16-day ride.
At the end of the day, which took the riders over 440 km of road and 300 km of special where they headed into the forest and were challenged with plenty of jumps, it was the French-born Despres who finished with a slim 1:49 margin over his Spanish rival. Despres, who finished second yesterday just behind his teammate Ruben Faria also learned on Tuesday that he had been awarded the stage victory after the Portuguese rider was given a one minute penalty for breaking the speed limit. Despres was therefore the one to open up the track and managed to stay in the lead for the entire stage. He now leads the overall standings with Coma just 2:35 behind in second place.
Despres, who is going for his fourth Dakar title maintained a slight edge over Coma throughout the day but the time difference is small and the rally long. While it is positive for KTM's two key riders to be in the lead, there is still much work to be done before anyone claims the prize back in Buenos Aires when the Dakar 2011 draws to a close on January 16. This is the third year the race has been held in South America and it takes riders through varied and challenging landscape and conditions both in Argentina and Chile.
Faria and Pedrero still up with the front runners
Portugal's Ruben Faria, fifth on Tuesday is now in third place overall, just over 6 minutes behind his two fellow KTM riders. The fourth KTM factory rider, Coma's teammate Juan Pedrero of Spain, was 14th nine minutes behind the leader in Stage Two and is lying eighth overall. All four are riding the new KTM 450 Rally bike, developed to conform to the regulations imposed on the professional riders by the rally organizers.
300 km of slalom, Despres says
After completing the ride, Cyril Despres described Tuesday's special as a "300-km giant slalom with jumps". "It was full of bends and very slippery," he said, "It was a bit like skiing." Of the day's tactics, Cyril said: "I noticed at the refueling point that I'd taken almost a minute less than Coma. I was feeling good, so I decided to attack a bit in the second part, although I was careful to look after my tires because I nearly wore them through today. The most important thing is to find a good pace and have the right feeling. For the moment, the riding demands a lot of concentration".
Both riders take care of tires on Stage Two
Coma also said it had been a priority to take care of the tires on the stage. "It was a long stage, 300 km with lots of riding and virtually no navigation," he said. "I managed to get past Ruben Faria after losing a bit of time, so I tried to push on to make up but the main priority was to look after the tires. Towards the end I slowed down a little to take it easy until the finishing line".
The comments from the two leaders, who between them have won the last five Dakar titles for KTM, also reflect the rivalry that exists between what are essentially the two great exponents of modern rally sports.
New navigation challenges
As well as the regulation that restricts the top riders to the smaller and less powerful 450 ccm machines, this year there has also been a change in the regulations that will ensure absolute attention to navigation. This will come into play when the riders encounter more difficult terrain and especially the desert sands and dunes. In previous editions the rider's GPS system would indicate when they were within 3 km of a so-called "waypoint" and would even indicate the necessary direction with an arrow. Now that radius of recognition has been reduced to just 800 meters, leaving much more room for error if riders do not pay absolute attention to their road books. The change has underlined the importance of accurate navigation. After each stage the riders' GPS are checked by organizers to confirm that they have passed all the waypoints. There are heavy time penalties for those who miss a designated waypoint.
Desert canyons and thick forest on the menu for Stage 3 The third stage of the rally takes riders from San Miguel to San Salvador de Jujuy over 231 km of road and a mammoth 521 km special where they encounter desert canyons and earth tracks before entering thick forest.