It's hard to predict anyone stopping KTM's run of victories in the Dakar...
All the lights are green for Marc Coma, the favourite to achieve his fifth win in the Dakar, which would also be the 14th consecutive title for KTM, although the competition, with Barreda and Gonçalves for Honda, Pain for Yamaha, etc. will fight it out without any complexes…
Everything comes to an end, but it seems particularly hard to predict anyone stopping KTM's run of victories in the Dakar, let alone suspect it. Last year, Cyril Despres' move to rivals Yamaha only led to a short duel at the summit between the two manufacturers. Marc Coma soon found himself safe from his closest competitors, because the threat posed by Despres and Joan Barreda on his Honda gradually faded until the rest day.
A sense of security
The small pack of Austrian bikes found itself in a strong position again on leaving Buenos Aires, and not just because the title holder, who demonstrated his talent throughout the season - rounded off by a sixth World Championship - got rid of the competition offered by Cyril Despres, now in cars. Behind Marc Coma, his team-mates give KTM a sense of security in case the strong favourite suffers a big glitch: Jordi Viladoms and Ruben Faria finished second in 2014 and 2013 respectively, while the fourth official team rider, Sam Sunderland, 2nd in the recent Rally of Morocco, is emerging as a rising star in the discipline.
Even so, and despite KTM's show of force over the years with 13 consecutive wins, the opposition's ability to react seems more and more likely. HRC won two stages in the world championship ahead of Coma (Abu Dhabi, Qatar). At Honda, everyone expects Joan Barreda to ride a seamless race for over a week. If he takes the lead, he could use his experience to manage his advantage and put pressure on Coma. This role could also be played by his Portuguese team-mates, Paolo Gonçalves and Helder Rodrigues, 2nd and 4th in the World Championship.
Some good cards in other hands
Honda also has a nice little group of outsiders, and their Japanese rivals Yamaha have some good cards up their sleeve to unsettle KTM. Under different flags, the blue bikes will lead the charge with Olivier Pain (3rd in 2014) and Juan Pedrero (5th in 2011 and 2013), Frans Verhoeven, Michael Metge or Alessandro Botturi (8th in 2012).
The big surprise might even come from Sherco, which raised a few eyebrows last year by winning two special stages. With Alain Duclos as its leader and the support of the returning Fabien Planet (12th in 2007), who wants to make his mark after a great career in Enduro, the French constructor thinks it has a good chance of giving the favourites a hard time!