Because KTM employs some of the best adventure racers in the world, there was little debate that the Austrian manufacturer would win its 10th consecutive Dakar Rally, on this the 33rd running of the race. However which of KTM’s top riders, Coma or Despres, would take the checkered flag this weekend at Buenos Aires was a question of some contention among adventure racing fans, as going into the latter stages of the event, it was either rider’s race to win.
That debate can finally come to a conclusion thought, as after racing over more than 3,000 miles on one of the most grueling Dakars to-date, Spaniard Marc Coma edged out Frenchman Cyril Despres for the overall rally win by a mere 15 minutes, which included a 10 minute penalty that Despres incurred earlier in the racing week. Photos, results, and more after the jump.
The fact that two riders can ride that distance, navigating a terrain they’ve never seen before, speaks volumes to the skill and physical fitness of both Coma and Despres. With the rest of the field finishing hours behind the top KTM riders, it’s no wonder why Coma and Despres were the only names mentioned as serious contenders for this year’s Dakar Rally win. After winning last year’s rally, Despres was favored to win again this year, which would have been his fourth victory racing the Dakar.
“Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win,” said Coma. “What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough stage was ending, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days. It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years.”
Going into the penultimate stage on Friday (from San Juan to Córdoba), Despres was in a do-or-die situation, needing to claw back his 15+ minute deficit, from Coma, as little time was expected to be gained from the Dakar Rally’s last stage from Córdoba to Buenos Aires. Battling throughout the course, Coma was able to keep Despres at bay, but finished only 37 seconds ahead of the Frenchman.
“I made some mistakes, they were two small mistakes but they held some heavy consequences,” said Despres. “This special is different if you are in first place as it was the case last year…then you want the race to be shorter. When you are second, you would want the race to be longer. But anyway, the feeling of finishing a Dakar is always nice especially here with all the people welcoming you. I am sad I could not do better. I have raced 11 Dakar, won three, and been on the podium eight times. One more would have been great. But I just could not make any better.”
The pair of KTM riders put on a good show for fans, but they weren’t the only notables in the field. Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues gave a strong showing in the rally, finishing 3rd overall, and the first non-KTM bike. However some will say that distinction should have gone to Francisco Chaleco Lopez, as the Chilean rider broke his suspension with just 22 kilometers to go before the finish line of the entire rally.
Having his Aprilia pulled the remaining race distance by teammate Alain Duclos, Lopez finished just over two hours behind Coma, and 30 minutes away from the third place podium step. For American fans, Dakar rookie Quinn Cody did an impressive Top 10 result on his Honda, taking ninth overall and showing international race fans that Americans can read a map and ride a bike at the same time.
|Pos.||Rider||Country||Bike||Overall Timee||Diff. from Leader|
|4||Franciso Chaleco Lopez||Chile||Aprilia||53:34:45||2:09:45|
|5||Juan Pedrero Garcia||Spain||KTM||54:32:03||3:07:03|
|6||Pal Anders Ullevalseter||Norway||KTM||54:57:56||3:32:56|
|7||Jean De Azevedo||Brazil||KTM||55:24:38||3:59:38|
Source: Dakar Rally; Photos: Maragni M. / KTM Images