San Salvador de Jujuy to Calama
The Spaniard Marc Coma made it two in a row Wednesday at Stage 4 of the 2011 Dakar Rally in Argentina. Piloting a KTM 450 Rally into Chilean territory via the Andes Mountains, Coma finished before fellow KTM rider Cyril Despres.
But it wasn’t enough to put some major distance on the Frenchman Despres, who won Dakar 2011 Stages 1 and 2; overall, Coma is now only 2 seconds ahead of Despres.
Marc Coma (KTM Dakar) says: "It was difficult to open the way. I’m happy and I felt great. I hope it stays like that right until the end. The general standings don’t matter for the moment. The most important thing will be the last day.
"It’s essential to have a good pace and avoid making mistakes. Now we’ll have to deal with two very difficult stages".
Taking the remaining top five Wednesday were Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez (Chile, Aprilia), Olivier Pain (France, Yamaha) and Helder Rodriguez (Portugal, Yamaha), respectively.
But all eyes were up front as the duel came down to KTM rider Coma and Despres, last year’s reigning champions.
And it was tough terrain for the KTM riders; on Wednesday morning, they were about to cross the Andes to get to Chile through Paso de Jama, at 4800 m from sea level, which is a suffocating altitude.
Coma was the first to start, and 200 kilometers later, he had opened a lead on Despres. Over and over Coma proved himself a very efficient navigator at Dakar. But once the riders entered Chile, Despres made up almost half the distance.
The field of Dakar motorcycle riders ended Stage 4 in Calama, Chile, after a stage of 761 km, with a special section of 207.
As the man who finished third, Lopez, he started from 11th, but through some tactical riding, he managed to pilot his Aprilia into third place, trailing Coma by 2:05 seconds. Pain took fourth, but due to a 12-minute penalty he sustained in stage 2, he was pushed back to 12th place overall in the general standings.
As reported, the Dakar was set up to progressively get both mentally and physically challenging as the motorcycle racers pummel through the 13 stages.
On Thursday, Stage 5 takes the riders through the soft sands of the Chilean desert, the Atacama, the driest region in the world. During this stage, riders will travel 36 km on the road, and 423 grueling kilometers of mixed terrain, including rocky track and sand dunes.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage 4 Results
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, 2:04:00
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, at 00:16
3. Francisco Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, at 2:05
4. Olivier Pain, France, Yamaha, at 6:20
5. Helder Rodriguez, Portugal, Yamaha, at 6:55
2011 Dakar Rally General Standings after Stage 4
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 11:43:12
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, at 00:02
3. Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, at 20:12
4. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW, 25:40
5. Helder Rodriguez, Portugal, Yamaha, at 26:02