To call the Dakar dangerous is probably an understatement, as the rally has been fraught with stories of peril from its very inception. Often alone in some of the most remote terrain in the world, riders rely primarily on themselves for their safety, but the sport is marked with moments where participants put aside competition to help each other.
Stage 5 of the 2011 Dakar Rally had one of those stories yesterday, as KTM rider, and overall race leader Marc Coma found himself as the first person to come across an unconscious Olivier Pain on the race course. Coma, who himself had sustained a fall earlier in the day, stopped at Pain’s crash site and activated the unconscious rider’s emergency beacon. Coma stayed with with the fallen rider until his water carrier, Joan Pedrero, arrived on the scene.
“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,” said a nonplussed Coma.
Race officials took Coma’s stop to help the injured Pain into consideration when figuring the results for the day, and reclassified the Spanish rider as finishing third for Stage 5, 1:40 behind the Stage’s winner Paolo Goncalves, and 12 seconds ahead of Cyril Despres. It was later announced that Pain had broken his wrist, and would be out of the rest of the Dakar Rally.
For Despres the day was a frustrating one, as the he finished the day 10:14 behind Coma in the overall standings, which included a 10 minute penalty that the French rider incurred for exiting the race course improperly. “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,” said Despres, who was otherwise positive about the day’s race, despite nearly missing the start of the race because of a team miscommunication.
Stage 6 of the 2011 Dakar takes competitors from Iquique to Arica, the northern most point in this year’s rally, and right on the border of Chile and Peru. The stage is 164 miles on the road, then another 283 miles of special terrain, which will see the riders encounter fesh-fesh, a talcum powder-like soft sand that proves difficult to navigate on two wheels. After today’s stage, riders will get a reprieve, as Saturday will be the first scheduled rest day for the Dakar competitors.
Stage 5 Results:
1, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW, 5:12:23
2, Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, at 2:18
3, Frans Verhoefen, Belgium, BMW, 2:19
4, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, 3:58 (Coma re-classified third after officials evaluated the time he spent assisting the injured Olivier Pain)
5, Cyril Despres, Andorra, 4:40
7. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM 12:05
9. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM, 17:01
10, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM, 17:36
General Standings after Stage 5:
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 16:59:33
2, Cyril Despres, Andorra, at 10:14
3, Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, at 21:42
4, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW, 25:40
5, Helder Rodriguez, Portugal, Yamaha, at 32:05
6, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM at 35:14
7, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 40:01
Source: KTM Racing; Photos: © 2011 Marcelo Maragni / KTM Images