Prior to the start of the day’s stage, Coma swapped engines in his KTM 450 Rally and incurred a 15-minute penalty though he still maintained a 37-minute lead over his closest challenger in the general rankings, Team HRC’s Joan Barreda.
Coma led the way off the start but lost the front in the early miles to Barreda’s teammate, Helder Rodrigues. It was a slim advantage, however, as Despres trailed by mere seconds and Coma was less than one minute behind in third. Honda’s Daniel Gouet, Samsung Sherco Rally Factory’s Juan Pedrero Garcia, Pain and KTM’s Jordi Viladoms were also within reach of top-three standing during the initial miles as well.
Once riders reached the second checkpoint, 55 miles into the day’s stage, Despres had moved ahead of Rodrigues while Coma held steady in third. Pain and Viladoms maintained fourth and fifth positions, respectively.
Rodrigues continued to slip down the ranks as the day continued. As riders neared the long dune portion that finished the stage, the Honda rider had dropped to third behind Despres and Pain.
Coma moved up the timesheet in the dunes leaving Pain and Rodrigues to battle for the number-three spot. Coma and Despres were on a tear during the final portion, but when nearing the finish line both riders realized they’d missed the final waypoint, so rather than incur the large penalty for such an infraction they decided to turn back. Despite the detour, Despres maintained the top time of the day with Coma in tow, a little over two minutes behind.
“A good day – I really enjoyed myself,” said Despres. “As I expected, I caught Marc (Coma) quite quickly, he let me pass and then once again I opened the piste until the end of the special. Now there’s only one relatively short stage before the end and I’m just a few minutes off the podium. As is the tradition at Yamaha, there are no team orders, so I’ll continue to ride as I have since the start of this race, to try and finish in the best position possible.”
Rodrigues fell short of Pain in the final miles, finishing fourth followed by Viladoms in fifth and Gouet in sixth.
Barreda was nowhere to be seen inside the top-10. The Spaniard had a dismal day, stopping to repair a technical issue 164 miles into the 217-mile stage. Reports from the field indicated that he was having trouble with his steering head and having difficulty navigating the dunes. He was forced to stop 15 miles from the finish line to address the steering head issue again, and then only completed two more miles before having to stop a third time. In the end Barreda crossed the finish line over six hours after the start, dropping well outside reach of a top-three finish overall. For much of the rally he was one of the only riders within reasonable reach of Coma, who now leads the general rankings by almost two hours over Viladoms.
Pain sits third overall trailed by Despres, who jumped from sixth to fourth after Stage 12. The defending Dakar champion is less than four minutes behind his teammate and a top-three finish with just one stage left until the end of the rally.
Honda rider Laia Sanz had a strong showing in Stage 12, placing her CRF450 Rally in 12th-place. She dropped down one position in the general classification though, and now sits 16th. The top American rider in the motorcycle class in Stage 12 was Mike Johnson in 58th. KTM’s David Casteu, who is currently riding with a broken collarbone, finished eighth for the stage and sits 10th overall.
Dakar Rally 2014 Stage 12: El Salvador – La Serena
1. Cyril Despres, FRA (Yamaha) 3:58:18
2. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 4:00:35
3. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 4:04:11
4. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 4:05:39
5. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 4:07:28
6. Daniel Gouet, CHL (Honda) 4:08:10
7. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 4:09:03
8. David Casteu, FRA (KTM) 4:09:21
9. Ivan Jakes, SVK (KTM) 4:10:22
10. Javier Pizzolito, ARG (Honda) 4:11:07
Dakar Rally 2014 Overall Standings after Stage 12
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 52:40:16
2. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 54:40:05
3. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 54:50:32
4. Cyril Despres, FRA (Yamaha) 54:54:17
5. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 55:00:55
6. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 55:17:39
7. Joan Barreda, ESP (Honda) 55:45:10
8. Daniel Gouet, CHL (Honda) 55:57:26
9. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 56:33:01
10. David Casteu, FRA (KTM) 56:41:58