Frans Verhoeven rode hard late in Stage 12 to claim the win, moving him up to seventh overall with two stages remaining.
The 2013 Dakar Rally ran back through the Andes Mountains and into the Atacama Desert during Stage 12, with a 319-kilometer timed special section with close to 400 km of liaison sections. Riders descended from over 2000-meters to nearly sea-level and were then faced with undulating sand dunes on their way from Fiambala to Copiapo. When final times were registered for the special section, Yamaha’s Frans Verhoeven was at the top of the list, earning his first stage win of the current contest and the fourth of his career. KTM’s Ruben Faria trailed Verhoeven by a minute and-a-half to finish second, followed by Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain’s Joan Barreda in third.
Following Stage 11, Yamaha asked Verhoeven to answer some questions about the Dakar, his machinery and his goals for this year’s contest now that it’s almost complete.
“I’m trying hard to do it, I always believe in myself and the bike, I dropped some time because of the fuel pump issue but since then I’ve kept fighting and moving forward,” said Verhoeven in regards to the set-back he experienced in Stage 4. “I will try to catch Olivier Pain on the 12th stage. My goal originally was to finish in the top five, I’m not sure if it’s still possible but I will try. I feel good and physically strong, I’m resting well and taking care of myself. The Yamaha France guys are taking really good care of my bike which I’m really satisfied with so I think we can move forward.”
Verhoeven had a bit of a hill to climb at the beginning of the day, starting from 11th following his performance in Stage 11. The honor of opening the road went to KTM’s Kurt Caselli, but 37 km in he had lost the lead to Barreda. Faria’s teammate, Cyril Despres, held to third through the early portion of the race and was followed by KTM rider Joan Pedrero in fourth. All four riders were right on top of one another by that point, just a tenth of the entire race distance for the day.
Barreda continued to hold nearly 100 km into competition and was followed by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez. Pedrero remained third and had Despres just seconds behind in fourth while Caselli maintained in fifth. Upon reacing the halfway point, the standings remained the same, though Caselli continued to lose ground on the leader, as he was nearly 10 minutes off Barreda’s pace. In a strategic move, Despres decided not to push for the front once they reached the desert, allowing others to open the road and to help his teammate, Faria, remain in second overall ahead of Lopez. The defending Dakar champ ended the day in 14th.
“I didn’t want to open the track today so I let the others go,” Despres said. “It was also important for me today to try and help Ruben. He’s been helping me now as support rider in all the Dakar Rallies since 2012 so today I decided to help him to try and stay in second place overall. I think he did well and I’m happy for us.”
Barreda continued to extend his lead during the initial kilometers of the second half of the special, but a wrong turn headed the Spanish rider too far north, forcing him to turn around. The lead then changed hands to Lopez and then to Faria, who moved for the front 222 km into competition. By that mark, Verhoeven had advanced into reach of the lead and was settled in third, just 23 seconds behind Barreda. Pedrero had slipped to fourth and French rider Alain Duclos was up to fifth.
Verhoeven continued to push hard through to the finish, gaining the advantage on Faria in the final kilometers for the win. Behind Faria and Barreda, Duclos claimed fourth-place with Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues close behind in fifth. KTM rider Jakub Przygonski claimed sixth and Lopez finished in seventh.
“My Yamaha 450 did not have one small hic up today,” said Verhoeven. “The potential of this bike is amazing. Today compensates for the trouble I had in the first week. I was able to keep the pace high for all of the stage. Immediately from the beginning I started to hunt down Faria, who had started a minute in front of me, and Duclos, who had three minutes. I rode like a motocross rider. Before the tank stop at kilometer 169 I had overtaken Faria and was on Duclos’ tail. It was one of those days when you know exactly what you do and where you are. The perfect day and a little bit more. I made no mistakes and was in super balance. Everything I did worked out the best possible way.”
“I really pushed hard right from the start today, and I lead the way for quite a stretch,” said Barreda. “Then I made a slight navigational error and lost a few minutes, but I managed to pull it back almost straight away. I’m pleased with my race today.”
At the end of the day, Despres remains in the overall lead, five and-a-half minutes ahead of Faria in second. Lopez is 13 minutes behind Despres in third, followed by KTM rider Ivan Jakes in fourth. Pedrero is in fifth overall, followed by Yamaha’s Oliver Pain in sixth and Verhoeven in seventh. With over an hour of a deficit on the lead, Verhoeven’s dream to finish in the top-five may be out of reach with only two days of competition remaining.
2013 Dakar Rally Stage 12 Results
Fiambala to Copiapo – total distance 715 km, timed special 319 km
1. Frans Verhoeven, NLD (Yamaha) 3:49:15
2. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 3:50:53
3. Joan Barreda, ESP (Husq) 3:52:16
4. Alain Duclos, FRA (Sherco) 3:52:32
5. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 3:52:50
6. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 3:53:22
7. Chaleco Lopez, CHL (KTM) 3:54:02
8. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (Honda) 3:54:17
9. Javier Pizzolito, ARG (Honda) 3:54:37
10. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 3:54:47
2013 Dakar Rally Overall Standings after Stage 12:
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 37:46:59
2. Ruben Faria (KTM) 37:52:38
3. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) 38:00:39
4. Ivan Jakes (KTM) 38:07:15
5. Joan Pedrero (KTM) 38:28:13
6. Olivier Pain (Yamaha) 38:50:28
7. Frans Verhoeven (Yamaha) 38:52:21
8. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) 38:57:43
9. Javier Pizzolito (Honda) 39:06:19
10. Jakub Przygonski (KTM) 39:15:36