Ruben Faria takes Stage Six of Daker; Coma remains overall leader
KTM factory rider Ruben Faria of Portugal and co-rider to Cyril Despres took line honors on Friday in Stage Six of the 33rd edition of the fames Dakar Rally after what the KTM riders agreed was a very tough day in the coastal desert of Northern Chile. Cyril Despres was third and Marc Coma finished fourth and still retains the overall lead from Despres by 8:48. Tomorrow, Saturday is the rest day, which riders will spend at Arica on the Chilean/Peruvian border.
Tough day's ride
Faria said it was a very tough stage that was long and bumpy. "I started at my own pace, so until the refueling stop I probably lost some time. After that I accelerated and I overtook Despres, Coma, Rodrigues and Chaleco (Lopez) 200 km from the finish. As Cyril's water carrier, I always ride sensibly, but there are times when I can take advantage of the situation. I started seventh this morning and that helped me. I think Cyril will be happy for me". It was in fact the second time Faria has taken line honors in this edition. He was first over the line in Stage One but then had to concede the stage to Despres after being handed down a minute's penalty by organizers. It was Ruben's fourth Dakar stage victory. he also took a stage in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
Sand, salt flats and fesh-fesh
Despres also said the day had been a difficult one as riders traveled from Iquique to Arica through Chile's coastal desert strip that looks like a moonscape. They started the day with a 50 km ride though the sand before moving onto off-track sections in salt flats before finishing in the dreaded 'fesh-fesh', the fine, talc-like sand that is feared by all riders. He finished the stage in third place just 3:54 behind Faria and is now in second place overall trailing Coma by 8:48 as the rally pauses tomorrow for the one rest day.
Coma also concedes a hard day at the office
Coma came home in fourth place and like his team members also talked about a tough day in the saddle: "It was a very hard stage, at the start with the dunes, then with all the navigation, because it was very technical until around the 200 km point. It was a very restrictive stage and was hard to open the way. It was like I was stood still and was still in the same place since there was so much 'fesh-fesh'. It was a really hard stage".
Despite the tough conditions, it was a good overall result for the KTM factory riders. Also in the top ten finishers were KTM riders Stefan Svitko of Slovakia in fifth place and Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway in ninth. Ullevalseter is, like the official KTM factory riders, on the smaller 450 machine to conform to the new rally regulations. He finished second last year behind Cyril Despres. Marc Coma's co-rider Juan Pedrero of Spain finished in 15th place and is ninth overall in the standings at the half way mark.
Peruvian fans are also expected to welcome the riders at Arica, which is very close to the borders of the two countries. It is the first time that the rally has entered into the northern reaches of both Chile and Argentina.
The rally resumes on Sunday after a welcome respite for riders and their support teams traveling with them and there is more of the same waiting for the riders and Stage 7 from Arica to Antofagasta will be another very hard day. The stage offers a 208 km liaison and a mammoth 631 km in two stages of special down to the shores of the Pacific. They can look forward to 40 km of endurance style riding and plenty of dunes that is going to test both their skill as riders and their physical and mental fitness.