Cyril Despres quickly answered Marc Coma’s surge with another strong performance to reclaim the overall lead. However, serious penalties prevented the Frenchman from scoring another stage win.
Drama from Stage 8 of the 2012 Dakar Rally continued on Tuesday as more twists were thrown into the fight for the lead. KTM’s Cyril Despres was originally declared the victor of the Antofagasta-Iquique stage after crossing the finish line in the 557-km sprint nearly four minutes ahead of his rival, Marc Coma. Upon an unofficial review, however, rally organizers penalized Despres and 12 other riders, including Coma, by 15 minutes. While the reason behind the penalties is unclear at this time, initial speculation is a violation of strict new engine rules on the evening prior. With the penalty taken into account, the unofficial results credit Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues with the win ahead of Despres and Slovakian Stefan Svitko.
The day started with Despres launching from the start to make up time on Coma, who overtook the Frenchman following Day 8’s disaster. The original route had to be altered because of weather changes, but at each checkpoint Despres was out front and leading by a blistering pace despite having to use caution while opening terrain for fellow competitors. The day featured a two-part special with the Frenchman dominating both sections to once again claim the lead in the rally by nearly two and a half minutes.
“After a difficult day yesterday when you start to doubt, I had to get back to winning ways,” said Despres. “It wasn’t easy to psyche myself up for it, but I’m very happy with my day’s work.”
Prior to penalties being handed out, Spaniard Juan Barreda Bort earned the third-best time during the day after crossing the line more than eight minutes off the pace of Despres. Bort finished more than three minutes ahead of Rodrigues in the original standings, but would be forced
Marc Coma handed the lead back to his rival and now trails the competition by two and a half minutes.
all the way back to ninth when taking into account his 15-minute penalty. Meanwhile Svitko, who originally nabbed seventh in the order, benefitted from the penalty slapping to claim the final podium spot.
In the overall fight for the final podium position, Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves was dealt a fatal blow. Goncalves was battling with Rodrigues for third, and though they originally finished less than four minutes from each other, Goncalves’ subsequent penalty has set him back to seventh in the overall rankings. The day was also harsh on Frenchman David Casteu, who suffered a blown engine.
Provisional results which take into account the penalties are listed below.
Helder Rodrigues (PRT – Yamaha) 1st, 3rd OA
“It’s a mythical stage of the rally, very long and with lots of navigation. I rode at a good pace, to try and stay in contact with Marc and Cyril. I think that if I continue like that it will be a good rally. Marc and Cyril are fighting for the general standings lead and are very quick. Can they still make mistakes? Anything is possible.”
Cyril Despres (FRA – KTM) 2nd, 1st OA
“It’s feeling good. After a difficult day yesterday when you start to doubt, I had to get back to winning ways. It wasn’t easy to psyche myself up for it, but I’m very happy with my day’s work. We came into this looking at a battle for seconds or minutes. It’s very competitive. Like any top level sportsman, if you don’t like confrontation or squeezing the last ounces of strength out of yourself, then you’re not ready for a fight. But, as for me, I’m up for it.”
Marc Coma (ESP – KTM) 6th, 2nd OA
“We knew that this would be a difficult race. It was long and there was plenty of navigation to deal with. We’re coming to the crunch part of the rally. Cyril is a major rival and we do battle over every single kilometer. But I think it’s interesting, it’s sport. Yesterday, the KTM technicians decided it was time to change our engines because we’d reached the half-way point. It’s a very good idea.”
Joan Barreda Bort (ESP – Husqvarna) 9th, 16th OA
“It was quick and difficult, dangerous with lots of dust and rocks. At the end, there was some navigation to tackle and it was possible to lose everything we’d battled for during the day. I had a few difficulties with the way points. I was 30” behind Cyril Despres, but I lost my way little so I decided to slow down a bit to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. For me, finishing here after the difficult last 50 kilometres of navigation is very positive. It’s new to me and I’m happy to have managed to tackle it properly. It’s been a good day.”
2012 Dakar Rally Stage 9 Provisional Results:
1. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 05:16:17
Helder Rodrigues benefitted from stiff penalties to his rivals and was credited the victory in Stage 9.
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 05:19:33
3. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 05:20:52
4. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 05:22:15
5. Frans Verhoeven, NLD (Sherco) 05:23:19
6. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 05:23:27
7. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (KTM) 05:23:29
8. Felipe Zanol, BRA (KTM) 05:26:58
9. Joan Barreda Bort, ESP (Husqvarna) 05:28:01
10. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 05:31:41
2012 Dakar Rally Provisional Overall Standings:
1. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 28:45:17
2. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 28:47:45
3. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 29: 29:36
4. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 29:59:00
5. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (KTM) 30:03:22
6. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 30:03:50
7. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Husqvarna) 30:11:14
8. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 30:22:30
9. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, NOR (KTM) 30:34:44
10. Olivier Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 30:42:37