|SA-Dakar: Coma retains overall lead after Despres incurs 10-minute penalty.|
KTM factory riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres continue to lead the overall standings in the 33rd edition of the Dakar Rally after an eventful day for both riders in Stage Five that saw them up with the front runners, if not in the two top positions.
Coma however has a 10:14 advantage of his arch rival after Despres incurred a 10-minute penalty at the start of the day that took them down to the coast of the Pacific at the conclusion of the day's ride.
Confusion reigned when the starting time was moved forward by 15 minutes however the information was not passed on at the team briefing. Despres did make it to the start in time but in the ensuing confusion he missed one of three flags that riders were obliged to pass as they commenced the day's ride. Coma and Despres are still out in front in the overall standings and continue to be the rally's dominant riders.
Despite their solid day's ride the first full day in the Atacama Coma said it had been a difficult and eventful day. He had one fall off the bike after which he had to make some repairs to the radiator.
"I managed to repair it and carry on more or less as normal. After the refueling, I stopped for Olivier Pain who had just had a fall. He was unconscious, so I activated the alarm and stayed with him until my water carrier Joan Pedrero arrived. It was a genuine Dakar stage where all sorts of things happen," he said.
Race officials took Coma's stop to help the injured Pain into consideration and after the results were announced he was re-classified third for the stage, 1:40 behind the day's winner and therefore 12" in front of Despres. They later announced that Pain had a broken wrist and is out of the rally for this edition.
Despres was understandably disappointed at his penalty but dismissed it as a legitimate part of competing in rally raid. "I was told at half past four in the morning that I'd been given a penalty. I just forgot my thermal gloves, so I went back to get them and I didn't see that there were signposts I had to follow at the exit. Unfortunately for me, that's the race rules, but I've already forgotten about it after what I experienced today," he said.
Cyril was clearly elated after what he described as "425 km of navigation and pleasure". "This is why I race rally raids," he said. "We had to go looking for GPS coordinates that were genuinely like needles in haystacks. Forgetting about the time or penalties, the most important thing for me is to feel good and enjoy myself."
Riders tackled 423 km that offered a rocky start and several off-track sections that required astute navigation in the salt flats before descending into the dunes of the Atacama. The day concluded with a heart stopping steep descent down to Iquique on the Pacific coast.
2011/01/06 | 23:12 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/KTM