Defending champ Marc Coma has the advantage in the 2012 Dakar Rally with just two stages left. Can he secure his first-ever repeat victory?
As the 2012 Dakar Rally is nearing its final stages the battle between Spaniard Marc Coma and Frenchman Cyril Despres is heating up. Coma accomplished his fifth win of the competition during Stage 12, retaking the lead once again and creating a gap of more than a minute and a half over his rival.
“Every day is crucial now, because we are reaching the end of the Dakar and there are less chances to make a mistake and recover,” said Coma. “The situation in this moment is difficult, Cyril [Despres] is a bit more of two minutes in front of us, although tomorrow, with him going out first and us in third, we can be able to reduce the difference.”
Meanwhile, Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda Bort nabbed his third top-five finish in a row after finishing second in Stage 12 more than two minutes off the pace of Coma. KTM’s Jordi Viladoms rounded out the podium in the 709-km trek from Arica to Arequipa, the Spaniard grabbing his first top-three finish of the rally to give Spain complete dominance on the podium for the day.
Tasked with opening the stage for his rivals, Despres was at a disadvantage as the field continued into Peru on Friday. The major obstacle of the day proved to be the numerous dunes spread over 20 kilometers in the 246-km timed special. After the first 72 kilometers Coma had robbed the advantage from the Frenchman by more than 30 seconds as Viladoms nabbed runner-up in the sprint through the first checkpoint. Despres, Brazilian Felipe Zanol and Bort rounded out the top-five while Slovak rider Stefan Svitko ultimately set the fastest pace through the first section to move ahead of Coma. One of the first upsets for the day came from Frenchman Olivier Pain, who was at a standstill at the 60-km mark.
The standings wouldn’t hold, however, as Coma moved back up front just 41 seconds ahead of Despres at the last way point. Less than 50 kilometers from the finish of the special Zanol suffered navigation troubles and ran 200 meters off course. Up ahead Coma claimed the checkers following a determined ride ahead of his rival. Meanwhile the difficulties continued for Pain 162 kilometers after the special as the French biker lost several more minutes in the dunes.
After finishing seventh more than seven minutes behind Coma, Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues holds onto third overall by more than 26 minutes. Stage 12 featured another strong performance by Jordi Viladoms, who made up more than four minutes on Rodrigues with his first podium result.
Despite his second-place status, Cyril Despres will have the advantage of not having to open the road during the penultimate stage.
Since Coma will have to open the road tomorrow, Despres will receive the advantage during the penultimate stage as the battle between the two comes down to the wire. Stage 13 will include a 276-km special between Nazca and Pisco that will feature more dunes as riders fight off extreme fatigue nearing the finish line.
Marc Coma (ESP – KTM) 1st, 1st OA
“It was a difficult day. I set off four minutes after Cyril and I managed to catch up with him. For the entire first part of the special I mainly focused on navigation, because there was absolutely no room for mistakes. After that, I knew that there would be good opportunities to attack in the second part and that’s where I managed to regain ground on Cyril. It’s no way near over, because there’s another big stage tomorrow.”
Joan Barreda Bort (ESP – Husqvarna) 2nd, 11th OA
“Apart from the problems experienced during the first week, everything has been fine. Every day, I was finishing with the best. I was fifth once and today I’m second. It’s good and I’m happy. This morning, there were a lot of tracks on the beach and it was difficult to follow. I decided to concentrate on the road-book and to try and navigate well at my own pace. I’m really pleased: finishing in 2nd place is great. I think that the two leading riders are head and shoulders above the rest. They are experienced and quick, but I’m going to carry on working this year, working hard. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to fight for a place on the podium.”
Cyril Despres (FRA – KTM) 4th, 2nd OA
“It was a magnificent stage, one of the finest specials that I’ve ridden on the Dakar over the last few years. In sporting terms, I expected that Marc was going to catch up with me and that it wouldn’t be a good day. But it was majestic. I don’t have any regrets, because I attacked throughout the first part. You have to go for broke on this Dakar; it’s not a race where you can play the waiting game. Against Marc Coma, I’m doing battle with an excellent rider. He’s quick and clever. So, I try and find the right pace. Apparently, there are riders in between us, so that’s good news for the start tomorrow.”
2012 Dakar Rally Stage 12 Results:
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 02:24:38
2. Joan Barreda Bort, ESP (Husqvarna) 02:27:21
3. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 02:27:48
4. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 02:28:35
5. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Husqvarna) 02:30:03
6. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 02:31:43
7. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 02:32:09
8. Dusan Cipka, SVK (BMW) 02:32:45
9. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 02:33:49
10. Felipe Zanol, BRA (KTM) 02:33:49
2012 Dakar Rally Overall Standings:
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 39:38:16
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 39:39:51
3. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 40:52:05
4. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 41:18:50
5. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 41:20:01
6. Gerard Farres Guell, SPA (KTM) 41:44:52
7. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 41:50:30
8. Alessandro Botturi, ITA (KTM) 42:34:50
9. Olivier Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 42:46:47
10. Felipe Zanol, BRA (KTM) 42:54:49