Cyril Despres trails his rival, Marc Coma, by 08:48 as competitors rest before heading into the final half of the rally.
A much-needed day of rest has finally come to Dakar competitors, who so far have traversed 4586 km in the first half of the 2011 Dakar Rally. Currently leading the pack of desert warriors is KTM’s Marc Coma, who maintains an advantage of 08:48 over rival, Cyril Despres, heading into the most difficult portion of the 2011 Dakar Rally. The competition has already proved brutal with many rally raiders arriving at bivouacs in Arica during rest day. Injuries and time penalties have played a costly role in this year’s event as KTM’s Ruben Faria recently discovered. Faria has already been the victim of two separate timing issues which have cost him victories in two stages. Numerous riders have also fallen to injury including Brazil’s Ze Helio and Frenchman Oliver Pain among others. With over half the rally remaining and competition getting closer to the finish there’s no telling what’s in store for the coming week.
As a result of the rally’s extreme difficulty organizers have agreed to eliminate the second special of Stage 7 between Arica and Antofagasta, with the original combined special covering 631 km. Following the first 272.68 km special on Sunday riders will instead drive in liaison up to the bivouac where they can rest and further recuperate before embarking on the second half of the rally.
Meanwhile on rest day the President of the Republic of Chile made a special appearance to the Arica bivouac. Accompanied by the rally’s managing director, Etienne Lavigne, the president expressed his interest in the competition and reiterated his support.
“I welcome the sporting example that the contenders give to our 17 million Chileans,” said the President.
The President’s visit was followed by Lavigne handing over a check of $157,000 to the ‘Un techo para mi pais‘ Foundation.
“I was very glad with the visit of the President,” said Lopez. “He asked me how many kilometers we have done, how we sleep, what we eat, what are the difficulties of a race like the Dakar. He is a true passionate of motorsports and he wanted to ride my bike. I hope to be able to dedicate him and to all Chile one stage victory.”
Following their rest riders will have an agonizing day even with the second special being removed. As the longest day in the entire rally, Stage 7 will feature an endurance type route that is sure to claim many riders as the intensity of the event picks up. Riding terrain will vary from the ocean shores to thick canyons as the stage serves to test even the most physically fit.
Stay tuned to Motorcycle-USA for continued coverage of the 2011 Dakar Rally.
Aprilia’s Francisco Lopez is more than 22 minutes adrift of Coma and is still looking for his first stage victory of 2011.
2011 Dakar Rally Overall Standings:
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 22:40:20
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 22:49:08
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo, CHL (Aprilia) 23:02:32
4. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 23:07:55
5. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 23:10:14
6. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (Yamaha) 23:29:50
7. Jonah Street, USA (Yamaha) 23:37:56
8. Frans Verhoeven, BEL (BMW) 23:42:10
9. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 23:42:33
10. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 23:49:40