|SA-Dakar: Second Stage win for Marc Coma as two-way KTM battle ensues.|
Marc Coma of Spain took line honors in Stage Four of the Dakar Rally on Thursday to even up the reckoning with arch rival and fellow KTM factory rider, French-born Cyril Despres. Coma also takes control of the overall standings by a mere two seconds in what is shaping up to be a battle royal between the two giants of the sport.
Coma said it had been "a very important day" for him, even if a relatively short special. "It was difficult to open the way. I'm happy and I felt great. I hope it stays like that right until the end. The general standings don't matter for the moment. The most important thing will be the last day. It's essential to have a good pace and avoid making mistakes. Now we'll have to deal with two very difficult stages".
Coma registered the best provisional time of the day by just 16 seconds over Despres, who had stuck closely to his rival throughout the day's special.
Despres was never more than 32 seconds behind and constantly shaved a second here and there as the day progressed as the stage took the riders from San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina over the Andes and down into Calama on the Chilean side of the border. Riders absolved 554 km on the road and a special of 207 km and were rewarded at the end of the day with their first look at the famed Atacama Desert, the driest region on the planet.
The rivalry between the two KTM factory riders is legendary and this Dakar is no exception. Despres won the first two stages and Coma the second two but in reality there is nothing between them as they tackle the tricky desert dunes of Chile. The KTM riders were closely shadowed on Wednesday by Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez who would have wanted to enter his home country in the lead, had riding at the top of the field not been so fierce.
He was two minutes behind but now has a deficit of more than 20 minutes in the general standings as the two leaders begin to put serious distance between themselves and the rest of the field. If either wins the event this year it will be the 10th victory for KTM, the Austrian sports motorcycle brand. Despres already owns three Dakar trophies; Coma has two to his credit and neither will concede an inch until after they get back to Buenos Aires on January 16.
"For this type of terrain that's so different you need to change the way your brain's wired. There's no more hard ground, just desert, off-track riding and surfaces that break up. It was a good start to the desert stages. Today, Marc Coma rode a great stage. It's a superb battle with Marc. Today again we opened up a little more of a gap on the others. This evening, I'm in second, 2 seconds behind. For a number 2, that's a neat trick, isn't it?"
It was a mixed day for the co-riders of the two leaders. Juan Pedrero of Spain, Coma's partner in the 33rd edition had his best stage so far to finish sixth, just over seven minutes behind the leaders and now moves up to sixth in the overalls.
Ruben Faria, Cyril's co-rider was not so lucky and experienced difficulties between waypoint two and four and dropped from third to 26th at the end of the day, Ruben crossed the line in 22nd place and dropped down the order in the generals to seventh place.
The two KTM teams can be satisfied that all of their four factory riders are in the top seven after getting into the tougher stages, while Coma and Despres are now pulling ahead of the rest of the field.
2011/01/05 | 21:29 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/KTM