As the sun rose this morning over the Andes Mountains in Chile, the riders of Stage Nine prepared for the long ride through the Atacama Desert. 150 km of sand dunes were followed by a three kilometer descent into Iquique, which lay ahead.
Although starting in third place behind Despres and Barreda, Marc Coma managed to pilot his team Redbull KTM 450 Rally to first place on today’s stage, solidifying his overall lead to 40:19 ahead of his closest competition, Joan Barreda.
“It was a complicated stage in the Atacama Desert. Very nice and very fast at the beginning, but we found some dunes at the end,” said Coma. “I tried to catch Joan because he started two minutes in front of me. When I caught up with him I tried to follow to ride together to the end. It was a good day for me.”
Today’s stage win for Coma not only marks his second special stage win of this year’s rally, but his 23rd special stage victory in the Dakar.
After suffering from navigation errors on Stage Seven, Alain Duclos and his Sherco SR 450 betrayed him yet again, this time having to be towed back to camp due to a valve issue. Meanwhile, despite taking ninth on today’s stage, Barreda still holds second overall and hopes to erode the gap between himself and Coma.
“It was a very complicated stage. I started quickly but Marc accelerated and caught up with me in the dunes at the end of the stage,” said Barreda. “There are two very hard days left. I’m going to carry on at the same pace. Tomorrow I’ll be opening the way but I’m happy with the work I’m doing.”
Cyril Despres of France has managed to push himself into eighth overall, thanks to his second place stage win today, falling only 5:45 behind Coma.
“There was quite a nice track that was twisty until the 200 km point. Then we arrived in the part that is a little bit more complicated for the hands, wrists and arms,” said Despres. “It was really bumpy with a lot of rocks. It was demanding but everything like this, to arrive here via this descent, well, it’s a nice place to be.”
Taking third on today’s stage was Juan Pedrero Garcia of Spain and his Shecro 450 SR, which places him in the 25th position overall.
Top 10 from Stage 9: Calama to Iquique:
2014 Dakar Rally Overall Standings after Stage 9: