Marc Coma escaped the challenges of Stage 8 with his fourth win of the rally to reclaim the overall lead.
The 2012 Dakar Rally took to the dirt again Monday with defending champion Marc Coma accomplishing the 20th stage victory of his career ahead of Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter and KTM’s Ruban Faria. In doing so Coma has officially taken over the lead in the standings by a minute and a half, but the day was far from easy for the Spaniard and many of his Dakar rivals.
Stage 8 included the longest timed special and proved a pivotal point in the rally. Featuring many fast and dangerous sections with varied terrain, the day had a few surprises in store for frontrunners who were first to greet the challenging terrain.
Major drama took place when Coma, Cyril Despres and Paulo Goncalves became stuck in an unmarked mud hole just 11 kilometers into the 477-km route between Copiapo and Antofagasta. Because the obstacle wasn’t marked in the road book multiple riders were unable to avoid it, with Despres suffering a setback of more than eight minutes. Coma was also involved, although to a much lesser extent, and when organizers compensated for the setback by deducting several minutes from the involved riders’ timesheets, some in Coma’s team felt the Spaniard should also be compensated.
“We welcome the fact that Cyril’s times have been reinstated, but we feel that if this decision was based on sporting fairness, than Marc’s time should also have been adjusted,” said Alex Doringer, team manager for KTM.
In the end the day turned out better than it started for Coma, who made a small navigation mistake and lost his initial lead to Despres by over a minute. After escaping the mud bog relatively quickly, however, Coma seized the opportunity to put distance between himself and his competitors to win his fourth stage of the rally.
“I tried to push until the CP1 and see where the others were,” said Coma. “I saw that I was recovering time and I tried to push until the end.”
The closest rider behind Coma was Faria, but once organizers accounted for time lost in the mud hole it was Ullevalseter earning his best stage finish so far in second. Faria recorded third for the day seven minutes off the pace of Coma, with Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues and Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda Bort rounding out the top-five.
With six days of racing still remaining, the final podium position is still up for grabs as Rodrigues is currently more than 20 minutes ahead of Frenchman David Casteu. Meanwhile Goncalves dropped back to fifth overall during the challenges of Day 8, but is only two minutes behind Casteu.
Marc Coma (ESP – KTM) 1st, 1st OA
“A very long special. I was lucky not to lose too much time in the mud and then I saw I could open a gap, so I attacked really hard. But towards the end I noticed I had engine problems towards the end, so I took slowed down a bit to ensure I would make it to the finish. This is my 20th special victory: a nice figure. Yet it is not winning specials that counts, but winning the race. And I know there is still a long week of racing ahead.”
Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter had his best finish of the rally so far despite also getting stuck in the mud.
Helder Rodrigues (PRT – Yamaha) 4th, 3rd OA
“Everyone thought today was going to be a calm day, but it turned out to be quite difficult. There was a lot of navigational work, especially a muddy area in a río near km 11. Many riders got stuck in there, it was incredible. But I am still third in the general classification, and that is great.”
Joan Barreda Bort (ESP – Husqvarna) 5th, 22nd OA
“The start of the special was really fast, but there was a lot of dust, so sometimes it was necessary to brake. There were places where we could not see a thing. Then there was a muddy area, but we arrived after the riders with problems and were able to bypass it. I hope to continue like this tomorrow. And we will see how I finish the stage…”
Cyril Despres (FRA – KTM) 7th, 2nd OA
“There was a torrent of mud between the inspection of the reconnaissance car two days ago and today. Therefore, it did not appear in the road book and I was the first to fall into the trap. There was no way I could have avoided it. I am awaiting the organisers’ decision: after Ullevalseter, Gonçalves and a few others had gone through, they took a detour, otherwise there would have been 200 vehicles trapped in the mud. So I fail to see why I and the others should be the only ones to pay the price. But I do not think we will let this be.”
2012 Dakar Rally Stage 8 Results:
1. Marc Coma, SPA (KTM) 05:03:52
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 05:05:47
3. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 05:10:52
4. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 05:11:02
5. Joan Barreda Bort, ESP (Husqvarna) 05:12:36
6. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 05:13:01
7. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 05:13:06
8. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 05:14:23
9. David Casteu, FRA (Yamaha) 05:15:54
10. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 05:16:27
2012 Dakar Rally Overall Standings:
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 23:24:18
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 23:25:44
3. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 24:13:19
4. David Casteu, FRA (Yamaha) 24:34:10
5. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Husqvarna) 24:36:29
6. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 24:36:45
7. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (KTM) 24:39:53
8. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 24:42:58
9. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 24:50:49
10. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 24:59:28