Teams and riders in the Dakar caravan spent Sunday working on their bikes and preparing for the second half of the 8000 km trip on a north-south trajectory from Lima to Santiago, Chile after what has been an eventful first eight stages that has left all options open.

The 2013 edition of the Dakar Rally was always going to be eventful for the KTM factory teams right from the moment it was clear that Marc Coma stalwart team member to his biggest rival, Cyril Despres of France would not be competing. Coma was ruled out of contention around a week before the start of the rally when doctors declared he was not fully recovered from a shoulder injury incurred in a crash during the Morocco Rally. It was a bitter disappointment to the Spanish rider, and that left the team and fans alike bereft of what is always a magnificent fight between these teammates who are recognized as the two best riders in the world.

The 34th edition of the Dakar Rally gets underway on January 5, 2013 in Lima, Peru. Kärcher is present for the first time as the official partner of the KTM Rally Factory Team, which starts the toughest rally on the planet with top favorite and title defender Cyril Despres.

For many KTM customers all over the world, the combination of orange and the Kärcher yellow is a natural thing. Now for the first time this partnership has been secured in the KTM factory team with a sponsorship partnership. So at the Dakar 2013 the factory bikes of Cyril Despres und Ruben Faria, Joan Pedrero and Kurt Caselli (the replacement rider for the injured Marc Coma) will feature the Kärcher brand directly under the KTM logo. The common goal for the partners: KTM’s twelfth consecutive Dakar victory!

Cyril, how do you rate your chances of being able to defend your title and take your fifth Dakar Rally victory without your team colleague and hardest opponent Marc Coma? “Well I would say they are as good as they have been on previous years. I have been training hard and although I didn’t do so many races this year I won both the big ones I entered. After that there are so many things that could happen, so many things that in a race like the Dakar you can’t predict, that I am always cautious. I always say that my biggest rival on the Dakar isn’t the other competitors but the desert itself. That is the thing on the Dakar that no one can master!”

KTM, the brand whose factory teams and bikes have sealed eleven consecutive Dakar Rally victories announced in a press conference in Barcelona on Friday that one of its key riders, Spaniard Marc Coma will be unable to ride in the 2013 edition of the world’s most famous rally.

Coma, who injured his shoulder in an accident in the Morocco Rally in October is not completely fit. The team has therefore decided he should not tackle the event that involves more than 8000 km of perilous riding over the world’s toughest offroad terrain through Peru, Argentina and Chile.

“Marc is one of our key riders and together with his teammate Cyril Despres has giving KTM the last seven Dakar titles. While we are disappointed that he is unable to ride, the health and welfare of our factory riders is the most important consideration. If he is not 100 percent fit, it is better for him to sit out the 2013 rally,” said KTM factory team manager Alex Doringer. Coma, winner of three Dakar titles and the reigning World Cross Country World Championship is, together with his teammate Despres, recognized as one of the world’s finest exponents of rally sport.

Red Bull KTM factory rider Cyril Despres on Sunday rode into Lima in triumph to seal his fourth career Dakar title and to present KTM with its eleventh consecutive win in this, the toughest event on the annual motorsports calendar.

His KTM teammate Marc Coma finished second overall in what was one of the most epic two-way battles in the rally’s history.

KTM has now won the motorcycle division of the Dakar rally every year since 2001, with the exception of 2008 when it was canceled because of security threats. In the 2012 edition, eight of the top 10 finishers and 15 of the top 20 rode KTM machines underlining the dominance of the Austrian brand’s sports bikes.

The race was a personal triumph for French-born Despres who first won in 2005 and repeated the victory in 2007, 2010 and again in 2012. His KTM factory teammate Marc Coma, who won the rally in 2006, 2009 and 2011 finished second after one of the Dakar’s most historic and closely fought battles. Both riders set the scene for a two-way competition right from the first stage and remained minutes apart until the penultimate stage on Saturday. Coma won five stages in the 2012 edition and Despres four but it was the turn of the Frenchman to ride in triumph into Lima.

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.

KTM factory riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres continued their dominance of the Dakar 2012 on Wednesday finishing second and third in Stage 10. Spanish rider Joan Barreda took his first career stage victory, breaking the stage victory run by the two KTM rivals who continue to battle it out for the overall lead. They are both vying for their fourth Dakar Rally title.

Despres sprang back from adversity on Tuesday after getting stuck in a mud hole on Monday to take his third stage victory in Stage Nine. He opened the road today as riders tackled more than their fair share of sand in Chile’s coastal deserts on the way from Iquique to Arica right on the Chilean-Peruvian border.

In this increasingly tight two-way battle it was Coma who prevailed on Wednesday and he finished one minute 32 seconds behind the leader. Despres, who expended a great deal of energy on Tuesday in his passionate ride to win Stage Nine, sacrificed some valuable time. He now leads the overall standings for this 9,000 km race from Mar del Plata on the Atlantic coast of Argentina to Peru on the Pacific Coast by just 21 seconds.

Stage 10 sent riders on 317 km of liaison sections and a timed special of 377 km. They started in the sand dunes then would up the day again dealing with the dreaded fesh-fesh, the power-fine dust feared by all.

It was business as usual for the two lead KTM factory riders, Cyril Despres and Marc Coma on Tuesday when riders set out for Stage 9 of the Dakar 2012 on a large arc from Antofagasta to Iquique in Chile. Despres, who had a dramatic day on Monday landing in a mud hole, went out like a man possessed, led throughout to claim the stage and reclaim the overall lead.

It was the French rider’s third stage victory in this edition. Coma has won four stages and with Stage Six scrapped, KTM has claimed seven of eight stages so far. Both riders are chasing their fourth Dakar Rally title and if either of them succeed it will represent KTM’s eleventh successive victory. The Austrian sports motorcycle specialist has shut out all the competition in every Dakar Rally since 2001 (the 2008 edition was cancelled).

Despres ended yesterday with a deficit of around 12 minutes after sacrificing the overall lead to Coma. The mud hole turned out to be a natural hazard that occurred after the final official inspection had been done by organizers and was not marked on the road book. Cyril and six other riders got stuck in the mud and race officials decided a detour was in order rather than deal with the obvious chaos. They later reinstated lost time to the riders disadvantaged and when they left on Tuesday Cyril trailed Marc by just over a minute.

It was with this in mind that he put down the hammer on his KTM 450 Rally bike and rode with a passion to lead throughout the special. His reward for such a doggedly determined ride was his third stage victory in Dakar 2012 to level with Coma’s three stages and a narrow lead in the overall standings.

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.

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.

Triple Dakar Rally winner Marc Coma of Spain has renewed his contract as a factory rider with KTM, the Sportsmotorcycle specialist brand from Austria. Coma will continue to compete for KTM in top international rallies and has expressed his desire to stay loyal to the brand where he started his career as a factory rider.

“I am glad to have been part of the KTM family for 10 years now and I want to finish my career with the brand where I first started as a factory rider I am looking forward at the next challenges and I’ll be racing in the Pharaons Rally and the Morocco Rally in preparation for the 2012 Dakar Rally,” Coma said when he signed his contract.

Senior KTM officials also expressed great satisfaction that Coma will stay with the brand. Pit Beirer, Head of KTM Motorsports said: “We are proud to have had Marc with us for such a long time. Together we have achieved fantastic results in Rally sport over the past years and we want to achieve even more in the coming years. Marc is a great example of professionalism and of commitment to the sport and to KTM. Without a doubt he also represents pure motorcycle passion. Rally is extremely important for KTM and with Marc we have a true great and a superb rider on our 450 rally bike. ”

Heinz Kinigadner, senior company official, former Motocross World Champion and motorsports consultant to KTM said: “Rally needs strong characters and lots of extra motivation and Marc has proved that when things are tough he is even stronger. Today he is not only a fixed part of the KTM family but also part of our company history.”

Universally recognized as one of the finest exponents of rally sport, the Barcelona native first joined KTM to compete in the Dakar Rally in 2003, where he finished third in four stages and firmly established himself as a serous contender for what is recognized as the toughest rally in the world. Coma went on to win the Dakar in 2006 when the even was still being staged on the African continent and then again in 2009 and 2010 in its latest version through South America. He was also World Rally Champion in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 and so far this season has competed in and also won both the UAE Desert Challenge and the Sardinia Rally.