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When Marc Coma hinted at a return to the Dakar Rally for 2016, everyone assumed it would be on a bike and with KTM. The famous Spanish rally-raid racer has other plans now, announcing his retirement from the sport, and also that he will begin working as a Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally. This makes the announcement a double-shock, one because we expected to see Coma vying for his sixth Dakar Rally win, and two because it was expected that when he did stop racing motorbikes, he would follow the path by many competitors, and race in the four-wheel classes. “This level of responsibility is an opportunity for me to put back into the rally everything that the Dakar has given me,” said Coma, while talking on the Dakar Rally website about his new position.

Yamaha Racing has officially debuted its 2014 Rally race team, which is being spearheaded by Cyril Despres, the five-time Dakar Rally winner who was formerly of KTM fame. Despres hopes to defend his latest Dakar Rally win, despite swapping orange for blue, and today is our first formal viewing of the 2014 Yamaha YZ450F Rally bike with his livery. This year’s Dakar Rally goes through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile and will be a longer and tougher route than in past years. With KTM debuting a now purpose-built racing machine, the KTM 450 Rally, and HRC also fielding its refined Honda CRF450 Rally, Yamaha and Despres will have their work cutout for them in defending the Frenchman’s number one plate.

HRC is getting serious about this whole rally thing. After testing the waters last season, Big Red is ramping up a serious bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Already announcing its 2014 team of Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito, Paulo Goncalves, and Joan Barreda, HRC debuted its new machine, the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally, to the press.

Judging from the response the bike got in our comments section, we are betting a few marriages might be on the rocks because of this beauty, but that isn’t stopping us from posting some more photos of the Honda CRF450 Rally, and this time the come courtesy of Metzler tires.

Debuting the German tire company’s new unobtainium KAROO Extreme prototype tires, Honda and its riders are hoping Metzler will help make the difference in the Dakar, and will help HRC give KTM and Yamaha a race for their money, come January 5th in Argentina.

HRC already showed us its 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally race bike earlier this year at Mugello, during the Italian GP. Announcing a five rider team, Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, age 34), Sam Sunderland (U.K., 24), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina, 33), Paulo Goncalves (Portugal, 34) and Joan Barreda (Spain, 29) will race for Big Red in the 2014 Dakar Rally and other rally events.

Improving on its 2013 design, which in-turn was based off the Honda CRF450X enduro, HRC says that the 2014 Honda CRF450 Rally has improved engine output, aerodynamic performance, durability, and maintenance requirements. It will be campaign by the Team HRC factory team, and also be made available to other rally teams as a production racer.

When it happened, we were shocked to learn that Cyril Despres was left out of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 2013 team announcement, though we American have a silver lining in the news as the five-time Dakar Rally winner was replaced by our own Kurt Caselli. However, with that upheaval, we were left to speculate as to the fate of the Dakar master. Would Despres retire from rally racing, finishing his career at its peak? Or, would the Frenchman defect from KTM to another team, like say Honda’s upstart rally effort? Well, now we have the answer, as Cyril Despres has been outed as having joined the Yamaha Motor France rally team for the 2014 & 2015 Dakar Rallies.

A hallmark of both the African and South American varieties of the Dakar Rally, ask any of the competitors in the 2013 Dakar Rally about what the Arabians call fesh fesh, and you may see their faces turn as ashen as the material in your inquiry. A very fine and light powdery substance, fesh fesh in large enough quantities can spell instant disaster for an adventure rider or rally racer, as it plumes can quickly obscure the vision, and its quicksand-like properties can instantly envelope tires that tread too deeply or too slowly. The byproduct of countless years of the erosion process, fesh fesh is sand that has been worn down from its typical granular size, into a dust-like particle that closely resembles talcum powder.

Sunday marks the second day of the Dakar Rally, and the first real day of racing. Despite completing only two stages thus far of the 2013 Dakar Rally, the racing has gotten interesting, as race-win favorite Cyril Despres has lost eight minutes to the overall leader, Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda.

Fifth fastest overall thus far, Despres’s lost time was due to navigating around a massive dune, a move that caught several other riders out as well. With Monday’s Stage Three expected to be an even more difficult day, Despres said he was happy to start from behind, and let the other riders tackle the course ahead of him, where he could learn from their mistakes.

The Dakar Rally has been settled by less than the eight minute gap that Despres currently faces, though the Frenchman’s navigational error would have been more critical if rival and teammate Marc Coma was entered in the race this year, instead of sidelined with injury.

In case you missed our build-up coverage and didn’t know, the 2013 Dakar Rally officially starts this Saturday, January 5th. Already shaping up to be an interesting race, KTM’s Marc Coma has already had to resign from this year’s rally because of injury, as well as two of the Honda’s factory riders.

Navigating their way through Peru, Argentina, and Chile, riders will compete over 16 grueling days, which will feature some of the most challenging terrain a motorcycle racer can face. A truly epic competition, count The Dakar as one of the great motorcycle races of our time.

To help you get in the mood, we have the official rally trailer and a couple longer highlight reels from last year waiting for your after the jump. Enjoy.

As expected yesterday, KTM made an official announcement today regarding the participation of Marc Coma in the 2013 Dakar Rally, and simply stated that the three-time winner of the race will be unable to compete due to injuries he sustained to his shoulder in the Rally of Morocco. The news leaves KTM’s Cyril Despres as the runaway favorite for winning this upcoming edition of The Dakar. “We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic,” said a disappointed Marc Coma. “One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation.”

Bad news for KTM rally fans, as Marc Coma’s ability to race in the upcoming 2013 Dakar Rally is being questioned this week. According to Spanish sport news authority AS, Coma has not fully recovered from a crash he had at the Rally of Morocco.

Injuring his left shoulder in the fall, Coma is reportedly sitting out events leading up to the Dakar Rally’s start on January 5th in order to give his shoulder the maximum amount of time to recover. Coma is expected at a press conference in Barcelona this Friday, where an update on his condition is expected, as well as his final commitment to racing The Dakar.

Carrying the #1 plate this year, Cyril Despres is one of the winningest motorcycle racers in the Dakar Rally’s history, having won the rally four times now (fellow Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel is the outright winningest motorcycle racer at Dakar, with six career wins).

Looking for his fifth win in 2013, the KTM rider has stiff competition, namely in the form of his teammate Marc Coma, who has won Dakar three times in his career. Separated by only seconds after thousands of miles of racing, the 2013 Dakar Rally is expected to be just as close between the two factory KTM riders.

With only a few more weeks until the green flag drops in Peru, we have already seen the official unveiling of the 2012 KTM Rally team, and now title sponsor Red Bull is doing its pre-game promotions as well, with a short video that features the Frenchman Despres. Visually stunning, here is a good five-minute distraction from your cubicle drone routine.