KTM factory rider and three-times Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres of France turned up the heat on Tuesday to take the Stage Three victory in the world’s toughest rally and assume overall lead. In a change of fortune in the KTM factory team, Despres crossed the line 13 minutes ahead of rival and teammate Marc Coma who ran into difficulties in the final stages of the race.
The two rode neck and neck during the stage with Despres having a slight 20 seconds lead at the first way point. Coma fought back to return to the front of the pack at way point two edging ahead by 14 seconds. Only two seconds separated the two KTM riders at the third way point after 162 km of the 270 km timed special but then four minutes later Coma, opening the road, took a wrong turn and left the the way open for Despres to go on and win the stage and dropped down the order to finish in seventh place on the day.
Even at this early stage of the 33rd edition, Despres and Coma have started to put their special stamp on the results and third placed Frenchman David Casteu sits back at 17 minutes 16 seconds behind the leader.
Despite ending the day with a handy cushion in both the stage and the overall standings, Despres said it had still been a complicated stage and he was not happy about the setback of his teammate Coma. “It didn’t start well this morning, because when I hit a hole, I ripped off a fingernail on the clutch. 60 km later, my compass repeater stopped. We reached the mountains and I wanted to keep the same pace, because I knew that Marc was riding very fast in front of me, but when we got to a stream, I must have slowed the pace when I had to check my GPS. To cap it all, I broke my rear brake on the big climb, so the descent was very tricky, but I made sure I was careful. I couldn’t see many tire tracks over the last 50 kilometers so I wasn’t sure that Marc was up ahead. In the end, I finished first and I’ve been told that he chose the wrong track so that’s going to be to my advantage. It’s good for my position, even if I’m never happy about other people’s setbacks.”
On Tuesday riders headed due north in Argentina following the spine of the Andes Cordillera and opened their account with a liaison section of 291 km before they attacked the times special of 270 km. the acute nature of the terrain where they tracked through river beds and dodged rocks and potholes in a climb that took them to a breath robbing 3000 m up in the mountains required absolute concentration and physical effort. Wednesday they continue north to the Argentinean town of Chilecito.
Coma and Despres have won three Dakar titles each and ironically they have achieved these impressive results on alternate years. Coma was victorious in the around 9000 km in 2011 and his navigation error today has left Despres with a 10 minute advantage in the overall standings. But in this long and arduous race to the finish in Lima, Peru, anything can happen and riders still face the arduous battle with the deserts sands of the Atacama Desert and new territory in coastal Peru as the Dakar in South America enters new territory.
Tuesday saw the KTM factory team’s two support riders, Joan Pedrero for Marc Coma and Rubin Faria for Cyril Despres finish 15th and 17th on a day that shook up the standing order and vaulted some new riders into the front of the field. They are currently 11th and 15th in the overall rankings. KTM’s Dakar rookies Johnny Aubert from the KTM Enduro Factory team and Chris Birch of New Zealand who rides in Extreme Enduro events for KTM finish in 24th and 38th position. They are currently 21st and 34th in the overall standings.
Stage Three Results
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, 3:48.38
2, Frans Verhoeven, Netherlands, Sherco, at 8:37
3, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 8:39
4, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 10:03
5, Alain Duclos, France, Aprilia, at 11:02
7, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 13:04
9, Gerrard Farres Guel, Spain, KTM at 18:19
10, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM at 18: 32
12, Jordi Villadoms, Spain, KTM at 19:08
13, Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM at 19:10
14, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 19:29
15, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 20:08
17, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM at 23:02
19, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 25:15
24, Johnny Aubert, France, KTM at 29:57
30, Chris Birch, New Zealand, KTM at 24:24
Overall Results after Stage Three
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM 7 hours 31: 42
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 10 minutes 12 seconds
3, David Casteu, France, Yamaha at 17:16
4, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, 17:37
5, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 19:49
8, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway KTM at 26:18
10, Jordi Villadoms, Spain, KTM at 28:26
11, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM 29:01
12, Gerard Farres Guel, Spain, KTM at 31:00
14, Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM 33:40
15, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM 34:50
16, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 34:58
18, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 41:51
21, Johnny Aubert, France, KTM 47:16
34 Chris Birch, New Zealand, 1.17:45