As riders finished the last majorly sandy stage of the rally, the 699 km run from El Salvador to La Serena for Stage Twelve, leaders have shuffled yet again and disaster has struck, leaving some shaking their heads.
Marc Coma is breathing a bit easier today after opening up the gap between himself and his closest competitor, Joan Barreda, to 3:4:54. Barreda suffered a serious setback after having electrical problems and losing nearly two and half hours, dropping to seventh place overall.
“I had electrical problems. The bike wasn’t working well and the battery gave up. It was very difficult. I just had to try and get to the finish. All is lost. I’m going to finish the rally. And that’s all,” said Barreda.
Coma, finishing second on todays’ stage, has put nearly two hours between him and now second place overall, Jordi Viladoms of Spain, making his 15 minute penalty for an engine swap a non-issue for the overall standings.
“Today was a very long stage, 350 km. We finished in the Copiapo dunes. This means it is always tough, difficult and not easy for navigating. From the past we know that normally this stage is decisive. So now I’m here, I’m happy of course. We stayed together with Cyril all day and we arrived at the end without any big problems,” said Coma.
“Of course, there are always some small mistakes and we had to find the waypoint. For tomorrow, there is still 150 km and this is a lot. It’s like I’m fighting for myself to be focused, to push every day and just follow the way that brings me here. So I’ll carry on like that.”
Cyril Despres, taking his second special stage victory of the rally, finished 2:17 ahead of Coma, and he now finds himself fourth overall. “It was a nice stage. Quite fast at the beginning, a lot of rocks also and then not that easy navigation on the last part. I’m pretty happy to navigate and I really enjoyed the day a lot, which is really important,” said Despres.
Despres’ teammate and countrymen Olivier Pain took third today and now occupies third overall as well. The Frenchman is closing in on his best Dakar result ever.
“15 km from the finishing line, I was surprised by a bumpy part on a descent. In a bend, I can’t have had perfect balance and I was thrown off the bike. I bent my handlebars and it made riding a bit complicated afterwards, which led to me falling again. I’ve hurt my inner thigh a little, but all in all, I’m still here and I haven’t lost too much time to Cyril,” said Pain.
“It was a little mistake which won’t have any consequences for the rest of the rally I hope. I didn’t want to give anything away. It’s a pity to be caught out by a moment’s carelessness. The race can change quickly!”
Top 10 from Stage 12: El Salvador to La Serena:
2014 Dakar Rally Overall Results after Stage 12:
Source: Dakar; Photo: HRC