France continued its charge towards total domination of the Red Bull ISDE in Saxony Germany on the fourth day on Thursday and is now leading the World Trophy, the World Junior Trophy and the women’s World Trophy going into the penultimate day in Saxony, Germany.

Three top KTM factory riders and Christophe Nambotin, the E3 World Champion, Antoine Meo, the E2 World Champion and leading E2 rider Johnny Aubert are anchoring the French World Trophy Team and they are currently the fastest three individual riders. Meo has been the leader in past days but he relinquished the advantage to Nambotin today and now trails him by just 7 seconds.

Australia is second in the World Trophy but now have a deficit of 32 minutes on the leader. Lead rider Toby Price, KTM’s Australian Offroad Champion slipped to ninth overall but is riding with a bent wheel and cracked ribs. Another one of their riders, Glenn Kearney was riding with a badly gashed leg, an injury he suffered on Day Three. Italy, Finland – with KTM factory rider Eero Remes (E1), currently fifth fastest overall and Spain are in places 3-5. The USA World Trophy Team, also heavy with KTM USA factory riders slipped to seventh place and KTM USA reported that KTM rider Charlie Mullins was riding with an injured shoulder. Mullins obviously put in a massive effort throughout the day and finished fastest in the final test.

Cyril Despres went into Stage 11 of the Dakar Rally on Thursday with the slimmest of overall margins just 21 seconds ahead of KTM factory teammate Marc Coma. At the end of the 534 km timed split section, Despres was first across the line and had extended his lead to 2 minutes 22 over his rival.

Given that the race is around 9000 km and there are still three stages to the finish, the competition is still wide open.

The two KTM riders, who are more than an hour in front of third-placed Helder Rodrigues of Portugal, are both aware that the slightest mistake can cost them their fourth title in the world’s toughest rally.  They have also now both won four stages each in this edition. Other KTM riders in the forefront of the action in today’s stage were Gerard Farres Guell of Spain who was just 1 minute 39 behind Despres in second place and Johnny Aubert, KTM Enduro factory rider, competing in his first Dakar Rally on a series model KTM 450 Rally Replica bike. Farres led the bikes for much of the day and Aubert had his best ever day so far finishing fourth in the stage.

So with the two lead riders so evenly matched, from the same team and riding the same factory bikes it is now largely a matter of tactics. Coma and Despres finished 2-3 in yesterday’s stage so Coma went out first. Despres shadowed his opponent all day and only went into the lead in the last part of the ride. It was the Frenchman’s thirtieth Dakar stage victory.

Despres said today was all about attacking. ”In the beginning there had been a modification to the road book and the tracks weren’t very visible. I rode 100 meters too far but then I saw Marc was turning round, even though he started two minutes in front of me. The day was a tough one and started with pushing the bike through a stream. It could be an important development to have someone between Marc and me. With Farres at second it’s not good for me. Tomorrow will be complicated, but anything can happen on the Dakar.”

That is exactly what will happen tomorrow on the second of four stages in Peru. Despres will have to open the road as the first out of the start gate, then Farres Guell, a friend and Spanish colleague of Coma’s will go off two minutes later setting up a possibility for the title holder to quickly gain on Despres. Coma will also be assisted by Aubert who moves up to be his support rider after his water carrier Joan Pedrero was forced to withdraw after Stage 10.

When riders set out at Mar Del Plata on the Atlantic coast of Argentina on January 1 there were 178 in the start list of Dakar 2012. Now in Copiapo, Chile for the one rest day of the 2012 rally after nearly 4500 km the 33rd edition of the world toughest motor sports event it has again evolved into the tale of two riders: Cyril Despres and Marc Coma of the KTM factory team.

French rider Despres is in the overall lead with a cushion of almost eight minutes on teammate Marc Coma of Spain. But that is only half of the story. Third placed Helder Rodrigues of Portugal is almost 50 minutes behind Despres and that will be very difficult to overcome. Both KTM riders are attempting to win their third Dakar title and KTM, the Austrian sports bike specialist is looking at a potential eleventh consecutive title. KTM’s riders have one every edition since 2001, except in 2008 when the rally was cancelled on the eve of departure from Lisbon following security threats in North Africa. KTM also overcame a surprise change of engine size imposed by the rally organizers that reduced allowable engine size down to 450 cc. This was a move that was largely viewed as an effort to break the company’s stranglehold on the bike category.