Chilicito, Argentina: Following a navigation error yesterday, KTM factory rider Marc Coma rode with a passion in Stage Four to take his second stage victory in Dakar 2012 and claw back two minutes on overall leader and teammate Cyril Despres. Both riders are going for their fourth Dakar title.
Coma of Spain went off at sixth from San Juan but early registered his intention to be the one to beat by being fastest at the first Way Point of the day. Despres, first off in the morning to open the road after yesterday’s stage win was in third place just 15 seconds behind. Then came the day’s biggest climb when the two riders turned their KTM 450 Rally bikes and charged up the mountain that took them to their highest point so far in this, the 33rd edition of the world’s most famous rally. It was still Coma with the advantage at the end of the climb that took them up to 3200 m. Despres who later admitted he had taken particular caution to avoid any costly mistakes had slipped to sixth and was two minutes 49 behind.
Despres then went on the chase and had moved into second by Way Point three having halved the time deficit between him and the leader. The two KTM riders raced together for the rest of the day but it was Coma who crossed the line first to claim his second stage win in this edition. Despres finished just over two minutes later. The French rider is still ahead by 8 minutes 10 in the overall standings but Coma managed to make up a useful slice of the time he lost when he was forced to ride another 12 km following his navigational error in Stage Three. The stage is now set for a great battle now that the two KTM factory riders progressively distance themselves from the rest of the field.
Marc Coma: “It was a very tough special, in particular at the beginning with the fast start. Then we had to focus on the navigation and tackle a lot of water in the rivers. I tried to ride at a very fast pace from the beginning, but it was difficult. I was able to overtake a few riders and make up some time on Cyril. Fiambala and many other stages still lie ahead. That is the way things are right now. And I keep on fighting every day.”
Cyril Despres: “It was difficult because the rainfall in the region these last few days furrowed the tracks and exposed big rocks. It is also very physically demanding in this heat and difficult to maintain a fast pace. So I am quite happy with my performance today. At the beginning I saw Marc surge ahead and I knew he would claw some time back, but I focused on the navigation to avoid making any mistakes.” Despres said he had paid particular close attention to the road book, which had almost 400 notes for Stage Four.
After another hard day’s liaison of 424 km and 326 km of tough riding in the timed special, Despres and Coma are separated by eight minutes in the aggregate times. Third overall is currently French rider David Helder Rodrigues of Portugal who now trails Despres by 26 minutes 48.
On their journey to Chilecito through the province of La Rioja riders encountered the classic deep canyons of the region, which are tricky to navigate. Tomorrow, in Stage Five, it will be a very different story as they battle it out between Chilecito and Fiambalá where they encounter the notorious sticky sand dunes. Riders will do well to remember Despres’ comment: “ It’s impossible to win a Dakar on a single day but it’s very easy to lose one.”
Coma and Despres have won three of the four stages so far but there are many potential pitfalls waiting for them on the rest of the journey to Lima, Peru when the rally finishes on January 15 after almost 9,000 km.
Other action on Wednesday saw Coma’s support rider Joan Pedrero of Spain move up the order with a good ride to finish sixth in the stage results, 11.2 minutes behind the leader. He is currently eighth overall. Rubin Faria, the support rider for Cyril Despres has picked up a 40-minute penalty and finished Wednesday in nineteenth place. Johnny Aubert, KTM’s Enduro Factory rider and Dakar rookie was 27th today. He is riding a standard series KTM 450 rally bike and is on a mission to learn as much as possible about the world’s greatest rally.
Stage Four Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, 4:16.43
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM at 2.02
3, Frans Verhoeven, Netherlands, Sherco, at 8.26
4, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 9.01
5, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 11.18
6, Joan Pedrero, Spain KTM at 11.20
8, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 25.15
11, Gerrard Farres Guel, Spain, KTM at 15.26
13, Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM at 15.50
14, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM at 16,02
15, Jordi Villadoms, Spain, KTM at 17.36
17, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 22.11
19, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM at 26.15
37, Johnny Aubert, France, KTM at 50.19
Overall Results after Stage Four
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM 11 hours 50.27
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 8 minutes 10 seconds
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 26.48
4, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, 29.50
5, David Casteu, France, Yamaha at 30.37
8, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM 38.19
9, Jordi Villadoms, Spain, KTM at 44.00
10, Gerard Farres Guel, Spain, KTM at 44.24
12, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 53.31
14, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 55.07
19, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway at 1:20.18 (40 minutes penalty)
20, Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM at 1:27.28 (40 minutes penalty)
27, Johnny Aubert, France, KTM, 1:35.33
28, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM at 1:39.03 (40 minutes penalty)