Spaniard Marc Coma is building steam on his quest for a second-consecutive Dakar victory as he won his first stage of the Rally today in commanding fashion. The Repsol KTM rider was already over 10 minutes ahead of the closest competitor at Check Point 1, 230 km into the special section. Behind him the first terrible accident of the event took place at kilometer 142. South African Elmer Symons, a man we met during our 2005 BITD Vegas-to-Reno experience, was killed in a solo accident on his KTM. His brother, Kingsley Symons, was providing support for him and was met by Dakar officials at the bivouac. The 29-year-old racer was in 18th overall at the start of the day.
Another Spanish rider took the second spot today on a Gauloises KTM. Isidre Esteve Pujol finished 12’16 behind his rival Coma. Unfortunately for Pujol, he also relinquished the overall lead and is now 11’50 behind the raging Repsol rider. Cyril Despres also landed on the daily podium for Gauloises and David Casteu finished fourth with Pal Anders Ullevalseter getting his first top-5 stage result this year.
Chris Blais inherited the fourth overall position from Jonah Street. Street was in fifth at CP1, but never passed through the second checkpoint. Blais finished the day in sixth after 4:54’47 of riding. Street’s Pai-Rally Pan American teammate, Casey McCoy, is now the second-highest ranked American in 33rd position. McCoy finished 35th in the stage.
The American presence is dwindling as only four US riders finished Stage 4. At this point, three of the 19 withdrawn riders are from the Red, White and Blue. Michael Kay and Brian Schmuckle, both Husqvarna TE510 riders, succumbed today while KTM-mounted James Embro had to call it quits in the third stage.
Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) – Winner, 1st OA
It’s been an important day from an overall victory point of view. I started out without taking any real risks, but by the time I got to the supply point, I realized that I had opened a big lead, since I only saw Isidre. I reckoned that the others must have been left behind, so I decided to accelerate since it seemed to be a really good opportunity to put a lot of distance between us. What really satisfies me is that I opened the road and had to navigate from the front throughout the special without making any mistakes on a stage that was far from simple.
Isidre Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM) – 2nd, 2nd OA
I got lost after 80 kilometers of the special. I was in Chris Blais’s dust, went off the track and took a long time to find it again. Then, after 360 km, I had a problem with the road book, so I followed Marc’s tracks. It hasn’t been my best day, but there are plenty more of them before the finish in Dakar. I’ve seen that I’ve got three broken spokes and a brake disc which is completely worn out. It’s a bit complicated because we don’t have any assistance this evening, but I think I’ll change my wheel with one of my team-mates.
Gauloises KTM’s David Casteu has been Mr. Consistent up to the quarter-mark. Watch for him to continue his strong performance as his teammate Cyril Despres begins to catch up.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) – 3rd, 6th OA
I lost almost 20 minutes on him! I think I lost around ten with the navigation errors and the rest. It was a difficult day because I started way back from the race leaders and I had to ride in the dust a lot. At one time, I had a group of seven riders in front of me kicking up a massive dust cloud. It was hell trying to overtake them. All in all, I didn’t have too bad a day and fortunately tomorrow, I’ll be setting off in the right group for me.
David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) – 4th, 3rd OA
We got a bit of a lesson in riding. Ah, what have you done to us, Marc!? At any rate, all season he’s been proving that he really is the business. He’s the world champion and I’m the runner-up, so it’s only logical. But I’m more of an outsider. I’m not close to winning the Dakar, but I’m giving it my all. Today I started carefully as a strategy and after the fuel stop, I attacked and caught up with Chris Blais. It was the day of the first dunes. They weren’t very big and in fact they were very loose. The amateurs are going to suffer on them.
Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) – 5th, 5th OA
The last 150 kilometers were very hard and I think everyone suffered on this surface. Personally, I’m happy because I had a good day: not great before the fuel stop, but much better after. It’s a bit more complicated for me than for the big teams since I’m on my own. I like it like that, but it does cause problems. For example, today I didn’t have anyone behind me in case I needed a spare part.
The riders encountered the first set of sand dunes on Stage 4. Though smaller than those ahead, today’s shifty mountains were soft and deep.
Stage 4 Results:
1. Coma, KTM
2. Esteve Pujol, KTM
3. Despres, KTM
4. Casteu, KTM
5. Ullevalseter, KTM
6. Blais, KTM
7. Verhoeven, KTM
8. Fretigne, Yam
9. Vinters, KTM
10. Marchini, Yam
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