Dakar 2011: Marc Coma takes third Stage victory in Stage 8; Despres a close 2nd
KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain on Monday succeeded in taking his third stage victory in the 33rd edition of the Dakar Rally and the 14th of his career. The day's ride, a punishing 508 km special was again a cat and mouse game between the Spanish rider and fellow KTM factory rider Cyril Despres with the two arriving at the finish separated by just 1 minute 55 seconds
Coma has now accrued a 9 minute 19 advantage on Despres, the current title holder, as the two best exponents of rally sport battle it out for personal glory and what will be - if either ride in Buenos Aires in triumph on January 16 after more than 9000 km of hard riding - the tenth consecutive Dakar title for KTM, the Austrian sports motorcycle specialist. Coma and Despres have now won five of the eight stages between them and continue to be only minutes apart as the rally moves into its second half. The difference between them amounts to roughly the equivalent of the 10 minute penalty Despres incurred in the early stages for failing to pass a mandatory flag during one dawn start. All evidence points to a battle between these great riders right through to the finish.
A hard stage, Coma says
Marc Coma said it had been a hard stage that turned out fine at the end of the day. He rode together with Despres and "Chaleco" Lopez. "We took turns to open the way and at a very fast pace. It was a good stage after a complicated one yesterday. But in the end, everything turned out fine. I'm glad, because it was a 500-km special. That's a hell of a lot".
Ongoing tough battle between Coma and Despres
Despres did manage to briefly break away after the first 40 km on Monday but Coma quickly came back to hit the front and remained there for the rest of the day. While Coma and Despres incrementally edge their way in front of the rest of the pack and are looking more likely to be the ones who will be in front in Buenos Aires, their biggest rival remains Francisco (Chaleco) Lopes, the Chilean rider who is very much at home in the Atacama Desert. He now trails Coma by 22.48 minutes overall while fourth overall after Stage Eight is Portugal's Helder Rodrigues who is now almost 42 minutes behind Coma. Despres said Chaleco led the way on all the quick parts while he did the dunes. "The problem with navigation is the same as in cycling," he said. "In cycling some riders stick to your back wheel like leeches and it's the same in rally raids -- but that's just part of the game".
Best finish this edition for Norway's Ullevalseter
KTM rider Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway, who was second behind Despres in the 2010 edition of the rally, had his best finish in this edition, finishing fifth in Stage Eight. He was followed home today by Despres' team co-rider, Ruben Faria who finished sixth and is currently fifth overall. Juan Pedrero, Coma's Spanish co-rider was eighth today and is seventh overall. After Stage eight five of the top seven riders are on KTMs and 10 of the top 14 are riding the Austrian brand.
Second last day in the sands of the Atacama
Organizers presented the riders with another tough in the sands of the Chilean coastal desert in what is the penultimate day in Chile before the bikes cross back across the Andes and head for the Argentinean capital. They had to tackle a complicated alternating mix of sand dunes, off-road, rios and even more dunes then finished with a challenging offroad section coming into Copiapo. The stage also saw the exit of Paolo Goncalves of Portugal who crashed and suffered a broken collarbone in the morning to take one of the top riders out of contention.
Tricky loop tomorrow and a mass start
Tomorrow riders face a tricky loop through the desert from Copiapo to Copiapo with a 35 km link and 235 km of timed special that organizers promise can trick even the most experience of riders. There is also a group start with the front runners going off in rows of 10 riders and the later rows of 20 riders so there will be no traditional, dust free advantage for the front rider.