KTM's Ruben Faria takes first stage win in Dakar 2011
KTM rider Ruben Faria of Portugal took line honors in the first stage of the 33rd edition of the Dakar Rally on Sunday as riders settled in for the first competitive stage of this 16-day test of man and machine. Ruben, co-rider in title holder Cyril Despres' team led in the remaining three KTM factory riders who were separated by only 2 minutes 13 seconds. Riders had a very early start out of the first bivouac at Victoria and set out for the day at first light for 566 km of road riding and a timed special of 192 km. At the end of the day it was Marc Coma in third place and his co-rider Juan Pedrero in fourth place.
Speaking straight from the bivouac after Stage One Cyril Despres said it had been a great first day. "Second and first together with my colleague Ruben Faria - we couldn't wish for anything better," he said.
Although it was an auspicious start for the four KTM riders, who this year compete for the first time on the newly developed KTM 450 Rally bike, there was only just over four minutes separating the top ten finishers. The 2011 edition of the world's most famous rally, in which KTM hopes to secure its 10th title, is expected to be very competitive and hard fought. Organizers have also stated that the more difficult stages will be in the second half of this 16-day event to raise the stakes and heighten the challenge.
Faria at home on Enduro style track
The stage victory was Ruben Faria's fourth career stage win in Dakar rallies. He said at the end of the day that he had managed to keep a good speed throughout the ride in what was territory similar to wehat he is used to back home in Portugal. "I did better today than many great riders with different riding styles and it is already a good point of reference. I am also very happy to see that my team-mate Cyril Despres also made excellent time," Faria commented after the top riders had finished.
Early morning start for Despres and Coma
Despres, who if successful at the end of the competition will bag his fourth Dakar trophy, was also satisfied at the end of the first competitive stage. He was second out of the start gate at first light just after Marc Coma. The riders had to be awake at around 3.00 a.m. for the 4:20 a.m. start as light broke over Argentina in what is the height of the summer in the southern hemisphere. Clearly satisfied with his day's ride Despres said the special stage had been "really great fun". "It was a great warming-up exercise, a winding route, big sliding sections, a mix between skiing and riding. You always wonder what it will be like at the beginning of a Dakar, especially now that all the top riders are on 450cc bikes. Is this going to change much? Even if we tested our bikes, a Dakar will always be a Dakar. The race is on now and staying focused is of the essence."
Coma opens the track on first day out
Marc Coma, the 2009 Dakar winner also said it was a good warming up stage. "Not an easy one though," he said. "It had a highly technical section and a faster section. What matters is reaching the end of the first stage without and difficulties." It was Coma's job as the number one bike out to open up the track for the other riders and this can give those following a tactical advantage and tactics are an important element in this marathon event. Speaking from the bivouac, Marc Coma said his team was watching the weather closely because there was a possibility of rain on Monday for Stage Two. "That would make it more difficult," he said.
Pedrero delighted with his first day out
Juan Pedrero, Marc's co-rider was especially delighted with his fourth place finish saying. "It was a great special stage for me.... I'm very happy with the bike. We had tested it but things are very different in race conditions." Juan said he was quite surprised with his time for Stage One. "I was really motivated at the start. The ground felt like Enduro racing and after a while I grew confident." He said the result was a great motivation.
New challenges in Stage Two
Monday and Stage Two brings new challenges to the four KTM factory riders who have another early start with Ruben Faria charged with opening the track. Stage Two takes them from Cordoba north to San Miguel de Tucuman over 440 km of road and a special of 300km. They will enter forested areas and encounter a track that organizers say will offer plenty of jumps.