Cyril Despres navigating the difficult terrain at the Desafio Litoral Rally in Argentina, on his way to the overall win.
The six-day Desafio Litoral Rally in Argentina, the first Dakar series event to be held in South America, wrapped Saturday with KTM’s Cyril Despres taking home the overall win. Despres was followed by fellow KTM rider Jakub Przgonski in second and Mauricio Gomez in third. Pablo Rodriguez took fourth overall with Javier Pizzolito in fifth.
The six-stage contest opened with Despres leading the pack on the way from the Iguazu waterfalls to Posadas. Thick jungle with narrow passages and hard-packed surfaces made the terrain much different than other stops in the Dakar series, and Despres had fallen to second by the end of Stage 1. Chilean rider Chaleco Lopez managed to outpace the Dakar rally champion by a slim margin. Przygonski followed in third and KTM rider Taddy Blazusiak held to fifth. Blazusiak is on break from the US EnduroCross Championships and is new to rally racing, but was pleased with his showing on the first day.
“I took it a little bit easy because I have to get used to navigating with the road book and I didn’t want to get into any difficulties on my first day,” Blazusiak said. “There was a lot of Enduro style riding in the first test so that suited me but the second test was very slippery and fast so I decided to take it easy and not get into any difficulties.”
On day two, Despres and Przygonski managed to push past Lopez, taking the first and second spots respectively. The second stage was marked by extremely slippery and wet conditions, making an already difficult rally nearly impossible for some riders. Blazusiak crashed and pulled out of Stage 2. Luckily he was uninjured and returned to contest the subsequent stages. Stage 2 started and finished at Posadas and was marked by technical sections that were rocky and steep, going through mountainous jungle, over rivers and through grasslands.
Jakub Przgonski came close to Despres’ time, but was unable to get past the French rider by the end of Stage 6.
Weather continued to worsen and Stage 3 was cancelled due to poor conditions. Despres returned in Stage 4 and posted the fastest time once again, extending his overall lead to nearly six minutes ahead of Przgonski. Blazusiak returned and posted the third fastest time in Stage 4 with Gomez following in fourth and Jeremias Israel taking fifth. Riders started in Bella Vista and ended in Corrientes and were greeted with terrain that felt similar to other rounds in the Dakar series.
“Today the track was flatter and sandy,” said Despres after Stage 4. “We were no longer on the hard pack red earth and on the narrow jungle trails like in the first two stages. That red earth could be very unpredictable and slippery like ice.”
By the end of the fourth day there was little chance for Gomez, over 57 minutes back, to challenge Despres and Prygonski at the front, though he was undeterred and took first in Stage 5. Gomez and Rodriguez took first and second respectively, with Przgonski in third and Despres in fourth. Despres ruined a tire toward the end of the stage and would have lost more time if not for his teammate, Blazusiak. The EnduroCross rider swapped tires with Despres, allowing the Frenchman to remain at the top of the overall timesheet. Blazusiak finished the stage on Despres’ damaged wheel.
“When I saw Cyril had trouble with his tire, it was natural that I should give him my wheel as he had a good chance to have the chance to take the win,” Blazusiak commented after Stage 5. “After all, that’s what teammates are for.”
Despres protected his lead and took home the overall win after beating out the field in Stage 6, coming in just 51 seconds ahead of Gomez. Przgonski held to third and Pizzolito came in fourth. The final stage was much shorter than the previous ones in terms of distance, but was marked by difficult sections through estuaries and palm forests.
Desafio Litoral Rally Overall Results 2012:
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 13:56.54
2. Jakub Przgonski (KTM) 14:01.39
3. Mauricio Gomez (Yamaha) 14:49.09
4. Pablo Rodriguez (Honda) 15:30.32
5. Javier Pizzolito (Honda) 15:32.46
6. Jeremias Israel (Honda) 15:41.26
7. Juan Ortiz (Yamaha) 17:10.06
8. Demian Guiral (Honda) 17:13.20
9. Laurent Lazzard (Yamaha) 17:53.04
10. Jorge Aguilar (KTM) 18:05.30