|Dakar 2010: Stage 12 for Lopez, 11 for Coma, Despres leads overall.|
KTM-supported rider Cyril Despres on Thursday finished the longest ride of the Dakar 2010 in eighth position at the close of Stage 12, trimming his substantial overall lead by just over 17 minutes on a day that favored the smaller 450 cc machines and demanded absolute concentration for nearly 800 km.
In order to preserve his position at the front of the pack and so close to the end of the rally, it was the French-born rider's task to ride a steady, but solid race and arrive in San Rafael in good shape.
Meanwhile, KTM's Marc Coma, who was fourth on Thursday in Stage 12, was handed an unexpected bonus on Thursday morning when it was announced that race stewards awarded credits to riders who were mislead by incorrect markings on Wednesday's track. The credits vaulted him into first place and sealed his fourth stage victory for this Dakar. The new results for Stage 11 put Coma 5'13" ahead of Frenchman David Fretegne with Frans Verhoeven of the Netherlands in third. The adjustment did not affect the overall leader Despres but meant that the second overall, Norwegian KTM rider Pal Ullevalseter shared the second placed ranking with Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez of Chile.
Marc Coma said it had been a tough special with a variety of terrain. "The first part of the special was very different from the second section, which required more riding skill," he said. "It was quite tough. I had a small problem with the bike because of the heat …. so I dropped my pace a little in the second part. But it was a fairly nice special and there was an incredible amount of people".
Riders tackled their longest stretch on the rally on Thursday as they rode from San Juan to San Rafael, an overall distance of just short of 800 km and a timed section of 476 km. Coming out of the special they took a short tarmac section to go round a protected area and then faced a tough and tiring sandy stretch. The day was characterized by speed, jumps, spectacular scenery and long tiring kilometers in the saddle, which included another 276 km to the bivouac in San Rafael. The nature of the track made it more favorable for the 450 cc machines. KTM-supported riders Despres and Coma are on KTM 690 Rally bikes fitted with air restrictors to reduce the performance to the level of 450's, in accordance with regulations laid down in mid 2009.
The motorcycle competitors who made it to San Rafael - some 90 of the original 160 starters - are now on the home stretch back to Buenos Aires but still have to fight their way through two more stages to complete this daunting 9000 km marathon. Tomorrow they face almost 40 km of grey sand of the Nihiul dunes before they hit the fast track back to the end of the stage. The special is 368 km and the finish is at Santa Rosa.
2010/01/14 | 21:30 CET | Editor: MR/HS/KTM