Marc Coma takes Dakar Stage 12 by just 37 seconds from Cyril Despres
Friday's Dakar Stage 12, won by KTM factory rider Marc Coma will go down in the record books as one of the stages of the 2011 edition of the Rally most hotly contested.
At the end of a very long day on the bike, the Spanish rider prevailed over his nemesis, French-born Cyril Despres by just 37 seconds. It was the Spanish rider's fifth stage victory in the 33rd edition of the rally and his 16th career Dakar stage win.
KTM's 10th Dakar title now within grasp
If Coma takes the coveted trophy in Buenos Aires on Saturday he will have his third Dakar title and level the score with 2010 winner Despres. The victory will also give KTM their tenth victory, thus recording a major milestone for the Austrian brand. The race, covering 9,500 km however is not over until Saturday and there is still one stage to go. The task will be difficult for Despres but anyone with any Dakar experience knows anything can happen between the end of the penultimate stage and the finish line.
Coma always in shooting distance
Despres, who won his third stage yesterday and so he had the job of opening the road. He fought tooth and nail to try to get the edge on Coma, but the Spaniard kept a cool head and stayed within striking distance the entire day. Despres even managed at one point to stretch the lead over Coma to 2 minutes 30 seconds at around the half way mark. But in the end it was Coma's day and could well now be his rally.
Clean ride by Coma
There were no mishaps for the Spaniard today who rode cleanly and efficiently. He was careful to avoid any navigational errors and waited till the end of the stage before he made his attack on Despres. While the two have fought a battle of attrition throughout the rally, they are now head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Third is currently Chaleco Lopez of Chile, just short of an hour behind Coma with the next rider, Portugal's Helder Rodrigues at 1 hour 42 minutes.
Despres philosophical after failing to break away from Coma
Despres was philosophical at the then of the 555km ride saying he had to go on the attack. "At least it's good to not have any regrets. I gave it everything I had and it was a long day. It must have rained a lot last night because the tracks were churned up with lots of mud. It was hellish. My chances are looking slimmer though. After a day like that with 555 km to cover and opportunities to open up gaps, we more or less cancelled each other out. Mind you, it's not the end of the world, you know, you have to keep things in perspective".
The two KTM factory riders have been each other's biggest rivals for the past six years and each are known for their courage, skill and determination. Both have also tasted the disappointment of losing out in the final stages.
Ruben Faria and Juan Pedrero, the two water carriers for Despres and Coma respectively, finished Stage 12 in seventh and eighth positions. Pedrero is now fifth overall and Faria is eighth. Tomorrow for the final stage from Cordoba to Buenos Aires riders have to tackle a 645 km link and a relatively short 181 km special, which finishes at the Baradero racing track in the Argentinean capital.