Spaniard Marc Coma claimed his third Dakar title after winning the 2011 event more than 15 minutes ahead of KTM’s Cyril Despres.
Spaniard Marc Coma officially wrapped up the 2011 Dakar Rally on Saturday by winning the event for the third time in his career. The final stage was marked by Dutchman Frans Verhoeven winning the trek back to Buenos Aires during a modified route due to heavy rainfall. Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues took a close second in the stage just five seconds behind Verhoeven and in the process picked up third overall in the competition while Jean de Azevedo of Brazil snagged third in Stage 13. Meanwhile KTM rivals Cyril Despres and Coma took fourth and fifth respectively in the stage as Coma finished the final leg 02:16 behind Verhoeven. It was more than enough for Coma to win, however, as he ended the overall event more than 15 minutes ahead of Coma and more than an hour and a half ahead of Rodrigues.
The final stage may have been quick compared to the rest in the series, but with riders racking up injuries and fatigue the final 181 km special was still a challenge. After winning Stage 12 Coma was the first to embark on the final leg of the journey. However, just 47 km into the stage Yamaha’s Rodrigues jumped into the lead ahead of Despres and Aprilia’s Francisco Lopez as Coma dropped slightly off the pace. By the first checkpoint Verhoeven had thrown his name into the mix and was leading the field by just one second ahead of Despres with Rodrigues trailing in third. At the 150 km mark Lopez had his hopes for a podium result crushed when the shock absorber on his bike ruptured and put the Chilean rider more than an hour behind his competition. As if things couldn’t get worse for Lopez, his electronics gave out after Checkpoint 3 and he had to be towed in by teammate, Alain Duclos.
Francisco Lopez (left) receives support from Etienne Lavigne following a difficult final stage of the 2011 Dakar Rally.
“It was unbelievable,” said Lopez. “Thirty kilometers before the finish and the suspension link was broken, and I crossed the line pulled by Alain Duclos. These are things that happen in the Dakar. Now, we have to forget it and focus in the evolution of the bike and what we can do next year.”
Meanwhile Verhoeven rolled across the finish line with his BMW in Buenos Aires to claim his first stage victory of the rally ahead of Rodrigues and Azevedo.
The major shock of the day was Rodrigues who collected third overall after trailing Lopez by more than 42 minutes heading into the final stretch. Lopez had to settle for fourth after a disappointing day as Spaniard Pedrero Garcia earned a top-five finish overall in fourth more than three hours adrift of Coma. After Americans Jonah Street and Quinn Cody of Honda collected 13th and 14th respectively in the final stage, Cody managed a top-10 finish in ninth overall as Street took home 12th.
Marc Coma (ESP – KTM) 5th, 1st OA
“Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win. What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough was ending, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days. It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years. I have to pay tribute to all the people in my team, who supported me. We had ambitious goals and to reach them we had to have the best, people made for the Dakar and willing to all work towards the same goal. As anyone in the Dakar, we had tough times. So I am going to get some rest and think about the future. Becaue, truth is that with the race and the permanent tension I did not have time to think about anything else in a long time.”
Cyril Despres was not able to defend the Dakar title and had to settle for second overall following his fourth-place finish in the final stage.
Cyril Despres (FRA – KTM) 4th, 2nd OA
“This special is different if you are in first place as it was the case last year… then you want the race to be shorter. When you are second, you would want the race to be longer. But anyway, the feeling of finishing a Dakar is always nice especially here with all the people welcoming you. I am sad I could not do better than this though I raced 11 Dakar, won 3 and ended 8 times on the podium. One more would have been great. But I just could not make any better. I made some mistakes; they were two small mistakes but they held some heavy consequences.”
Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP – KTM) 7th, 5th OA
“I am really happy. We worked hard and we can be happy. I must thank Marc (Coma) and all of those who helped me, especially the many sponsors without whom I would not be here. I am really, really happy. My track record is a fast one, for sure. In just three years, I am now in an official team and I am finishing fifth!”
Frans Verhoeven (BEL – BMW) 1st, 15th OA
“To be honnest, this was not a stage for me. It was too short. I prefer longer stages. At my age, longer stages are better; I am an enduring person. I did some self-motivation and this morning, I was very focuses on the curves. I released the brakes a notch and I increased my puch another notch. I tried not to make mistakes despite the dust in front of me. I was pretty successful and I won the scratch. I had a very good Dakar. I finished almost every day in the Top 10. It was my goal. There was just one very bad day where I have to change my engine in the stage and I lost 5h30. If I had not lost that time, I would have fought for fourth place. But tha’s not how it works. I am finishing 16th and I am pretty happy about it.”
2011 Dakar Rally Stage 13 Results:
1. Frans Verhoeven, BEL (BMW) 01:25:07
2. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 01:25:12
3. Jean de Azevedo, BRA (KTM) 01:25:26
Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (left) managed third overall after Francisco Lopez suffered major losses in the final day.
4. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 01:25:51
5. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 01:27:23
6. Henk Knuiman, NLD (KTM) 01:27:54
7. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 01:28:12
8. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 01:28:58
9. Jacek Czachor, POL (KTM) 01:29:45
10. Miran Stanovnik, SVN (KTM) 01:30:23
2011 Dakar Rally Overall Standings:
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 51:25:00
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 51:40:04
3. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 53:05:20
4. Francisco Lopez, CHL (Aprilia) 53:34:45
5. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 54:32:03
6. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 54:57:56
7. Jean de Azevedo, BRA (KTM) 55:24:38
8. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 55:38:01
9. Quinn Cody, USA (Honda) 56:17:10
10. Jacek Czachor, POL (KTM) 57:38:41
Video courtesy of Dakar.com