Cyril Despres is still the man to beat in the motorcycle category.
Although his new Yamaha will have to prove its worth throughout the two-week race, Cyril Despres is still the man to beat in the motorcycle category. Potential usurpers to the throne include comeback kid Marc Coma and fearless fighters such as "Chaleco", Hélder Rodrigues and Paolo Gonçalves…
One of the motorcycle riders at the Dakar seems to be head and shoulders above the rest. Cyril Despres is unanimously recognised as a skilful racer, but he has also proved his knack for constantly adjusting his speed to the situation at hand, and Fortune has often smiled upon him at the key moments of his heroic undertakings.
It is just as well that she is on his side, since his next objective is a challenge of epic proportions: the Frenchman aims to equal Stéphane Peterhansel's record of six wins at the Dakar, but he has left KTM (winners of 12 consecutive editions) for a Yamaha which has delivered lots of promise... but not much else! In this Herculean task, the five-time winner will come up against his nemesis Marc Coma, who was forced to sit out last year's Dakar due to an injured shoulder but is psyched up to fight for a fourth win which would shift the momentum in his favour.
Another Japanese squad, this one in the colours of Honda, will also be in the mix. Hélder Rodrigues, who has already finished third behind Despres and Coma on two separate occasions, gave the motorcycle its first outing in 2013 and is now going for glory. Since last January, the team has strengthened its ranks with Joan Barreda, who has earned a reputation as the fastest rider of them all, and rally raid world champion Paolo Gonçalves, winner of the Dos Sertões in Brazil and the Rally of Morocco. More than enough to make Honda the outsiders with the best prospects.
Beyond those vying for the top honours, many a rider will be aiming for a decent overall place. Among them, KTM's Frenchman David Casteu, Pole Jakob Przygoński and Slovak Ivan Jakes (fourth last year), as well as Speedbrain's Italian Alessandro Botturi (eighth in 2012). The French Sherco squad is banking on a strong duo to prove its motorcycles have come of age: Joan Pedrero (fifth in 2011 and 2013) and Alain Duclos (sixth in 2010) have both been tasked with making it to Valparaíso in the top 10. It will be anything but easy…