The number 1 machine of Marc Coma won't make it to the beach in Dakar as the leader crashed out of the rally today during Stage 13. He was the final Repsol KTM rider still competing.
The worst possible outcome for Team Repsol KTM has emerged today with the injury and subsequent withdrawal of the sole remaining rider and overall leader, Marc Coma. The Spaniard found himself off track early in the 260 km special and his day went downhill from there. An unsuspected introduction to a tree stump around km 57 separated the rider from his KTM 690 and he struck a nearby tree. Initially fazed, Coma soon collapsed unconscious and was taken by rescue helicopter to a hospital with the fear of a potential head injury. Early reports have him in good condition but he will be further evaluated in the days to come.
Cyril Despres won the stage and inherited the overall lead by beating Red Bull KTM's Chris Blais by 6'07. Thierry Bethys brought his Honda across the finish in third 11'43 adrift of the leader. Tom Classen was fourth and Janis Vinters fifth. Some of these privateer riders are experiencing the benefits of a good starting position. A single lucky break is all it takes to put a rider up front for the beginning of the next stage and a chance to ride with the major players.
Isidre Esteve Pujol was also involved in a crash and disoriented. The Gauloises rider was found by his teammate David Casteu who left the disabled machine and rode Esteve Pujol two-up into the next check point. Casteu also benefited from Coma's misfortune and moved into second overall. He's 35'28 behind Despres and Blais is just over 19 minutes back in third. Pal Anders Ullevalseter holds fourth and Helder Rodrigues is fifth, the highest ranked 450cc machine.
With Blais picking up nearly 12 minutes on Casteu, he is in serious striking position with one stage left. Tomorrow's 225 km special test will be the do-or-die if Blais wants to make it into the runner-up spot. It will take a fantastic ride on his part and a little luck for him to overtake the position. The Frenchman has been extremely consistent and has yet to fall below eighth on any given stage.
Casey McCoy scored a personal best with his 27th placing today. He improved to 31st overall.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) - Winner, 1st OA
Janis Vinters is reaping the benefits of a good starting position. The Latvian rider hasn't finished outside the top-10 since winning Stage 9.
During the last 20 kilometers, I started thinking. I couldn't see the helicopter above me and the people at the side of the road had strange expressions on their faces. I had a bad feeling about it. I'm glad that Marc [Coma] wasn't too badly hurt. This morning, we were a little worried about the dust from all the competitors who started in front of us. I'm really relieved for Marc and also for Isidre [Esteve]. As regards my special, I found the right direction after six kilometers although the riders in front of me had got a bit lost. It was difficult to navigate, but I'm very satisfied with my special, I enjoyed myself. I've always said since Morocco, when I had mechanical problems, that if I didn't believe in my chances of victory, then I might as well have gone home. But the Dakar isn't finished just yet. There are still two days to go and I could have navigation problems tomorrow.
Tom Classen (KTM) - 5th, 18th OA
It's really great to be amongst the first to start. You concentrate on your own navigation. You don't have to follow idiots. I knew that Cyril (Despres) was behind me but I didn't want him to take advantage of my navigation, so I tried to hide. I'm delighted with this second place. I'm following in the footsteps of Alfie Cox who was a great biker.
David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) - 7th, 2nd OA
Just before I got to CP1 I found Isidre [Esteve], on the ground next to his bike. He asked me what he was doing there, where he was. The bike was damaged and I couldn't repair it. I took him on my bike to CP1 where I knew there was a doctor. When we got there, I gave some money to one of the locals to go with his pick up to fetch the bike. It gave me so many bad memories of last year. I suppose that Isidre went for all-out attack because he needed to for his race and sponsors. I'm 2nd in the general rankings, but today I'm not thinking about that.
Chris Blais (Red Bull KTM) - 2nd, 3rd OA
Yesterday, I had a bad fall after only 30 km. I didn't have any brakes for the rest of the special stage, so this morning I had to start in 18th position. It was vital to navigate and ride carefully whilst still going fast. Apparently, the riders in front of me found the right track and I followed them. It's good that I've made time up on Casteu and Ullevalseter. It's especially the Norwegian who was worrying me. I didn't want him to catch up with me in the general standings.
Jordi Arcarons (Repsol KTM Team Manager)
Marc [Coma] is hurting a lot but he is okay. He hasn't broken anything. He's going to have a series of medical examinations in Dakar then in Barcelona. He seemed in good spirits in spite of the circumstances. He didn't really remember how he had the accident but he was riding off-track and hit a tree. The damage to his morale is worse than the physical damage.
Stage 13 Results:
Stage 13 proved to be a devastating one for Repsol KTM when the final team rider, Marc Coma, was knocked out of contention. Another high-profile rider Isidre Esteve Pujol was also injured in a crash.
1. Despres, KTM
2. Blais, KTM
3. Bethys, Hon
4. Classen, KTM
5. Vinters, KTM
6. Marchini, Yam
7. Katrinak, KTM
8. Rodrigues, Yam
9. De Azevedo, KTM
10. Vinters, KTM
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