The 2012 Dakar Rally
is officially halfway completed as riders entered the rest stage on Sunday for some much-needed recuperation. More than 4,563 kilometers have already been covered in the trek to Lima, with KTM
’s Cyril Despres and Marc Coma controlling the pace throughout the early specials. Aside from the two frontrunners - who at this point are in a league of their own running nearly 50 minutes ahead – the only other rider to win a stage has been Aprilia
’s Francisco Lopez. Unfortunately for the Chilean rider,
however, a sprained knee in Stage 7 has forced him to retire from the Dakar competition.
“My Dakar finishes today,” said Lopez. “I´m in pain and I am not able to put the leg on the ground, but I will be fine in two or three weeks. I would like to thank all people who have supported me, starting from Aprilia that gave me a truly competitive bike.”
There are currently 125 motorcycles still registered to compete in the rally raid, though plenty more riders are expected to drop out in the second half. To get a better idea of Dakar’s challenges, each rider is, on average, going through a new tire and brake set each day, and more than 100 gallons of fuel and two gallons of oil have been used by each rider thus far.
This year has proved especially unfortunate for American riders after injury and mechanical troubles ended the hopes of Quinn Cody and Jonah Street in the first few stages. Coupled with Lopez’s accident and Jakub Przygonski’s engine blowing, there is little doubt the Dakar title will stay in the hands of the usual suspects – who have ruled the competition for the past six years.
We should count our blessings, however, as the battle rages on with Coma less than eight minutes behind Despres. The Frenchman is far from wrapping up the title, especially with some of the most difficult stages in the rally taking place in the next week. Included in the upcoming hardships are 2500 kilometers of timed specials (nearly double the ones held up to now) and a marathon stage without any pit stops. It’s safe to say the rally is far from over at this point.
Other top riders and machines that have cracked under pressure so far include Frans Verhoeven, who’s dropped to 26th more than three hours behind, and Alain Duclos – who had problems with his bike and has since fallen outside the top 100.
The only other rider remaining in the competition who’s been thriving off the difficult stages is Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues. Currently in third approximately 50 minutes behind Coma, Rodrigues finished third overall in last year’s rally and has shown that he has the endurance to keep on pace with Coma and Despres. The next few stages will be crucial for him and his bike, however, as fellow Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves is just six minutes behind and riding well.
The competition is set to resume Monday with a 477 km special, which will be the longest timed section of the rally.
2012 Dakar Rally Overall Standings:
1. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 18:12:38
2. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 18:20:26
3. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Yamaha) 19:02:17
4. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Husqvarna) 19:08:11
5. David Casteu, FRA (Yamaha) 19:18:16
6. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 19:20:18
7. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (KTM) 19:20:38
8. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 19:29:57
9. Francisco Lopez, CHL (Aprilia) 19:29:58
10. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (KTM) 19:36:26