Marc Coma ’09 Dakar Champ | Interview
Marc Coma Readies for 2010
This year the Dakar 2010 returns to Argentina & Chile for the second time and Marc Coma, last year’s winner, is one of the favorites to carry off the victory again this year. With the number 1 on the fairing of his KTM 690 Rally, the Repsol rider is facing this edition with the ambition and caution that has always marked this 33 year old rider, although he is convinced that he can be in the fight to get his third win in the toughest rally in the world.
After a season full of doubts thrown up by changes in the regulations, a limit on the displacement, down to 450cc, and the possible withdrawal of KTM from the competition, Coma will in the end participate on a KTM 690 Rally, although its power will be limited. The Repsol rider has seen the two sides of the coin in 2009, with victories in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and 2nd position in the Rally Tunisia; but he was also injured in the Rally Sardinia when he was in the lead. After a difficult recovery Coma is back in tip-top form, proof of which was his victory in the Rally Morrocco at the end of October.
The Repsol rider is already in Buenos Aires for the checks that have to be carried out before the race. His shield will once again be Jordi Viladoms, and the team has a new member, Henk Kniuman from the Nethelands.The tactical expert will, as always, be Jordi Arcarons who is the sports manager of the team. The race starts on 1st January in Buenos Aires with a liaison to the city of Colón, and so the race really begins on Saturday 2nd with the first special of the Dakar 2010.
Question… This is your 8th Dakar, something you have won twice, are you nervous with the challenge ahead of you?
Marc Coma Speaks… "The days before the race are when you have some butterflies in your stomach and you spend the day thinking about what you may have forgotten and to get everything set up right. It is a ritual where you are always a bit nervous."
Question… This year has been complicated, above all because of the injury you got in Sardinia, what sort of form are you in?
Marc Coma Speaks… "An injury at any time is a bad one, but June is the quietest month in the calendar and so it has not affected the preparation for this race. We are in good form, and we have even been doing some strength and stamina tests recently and so we are in similar conditions to last year."
Question… The year has also been marked by the change to the rules and the doubts concerning the possible withdrawal of KTM. Did this condition your training schedule?
Marc Coma Speaks… "We tried to make sure it was not affected. To be sincere there have been some complicated moments, with a lot of questions, but luckily we are surrounded by very effective people who have kept the project going. KTM is also a company with a long tradition in this race, with very passionate people, and that means that this project has continued with guarantees."
Question… What do you think of the power restrictions applied to the larger displacement bikes?
Marc Coma Speaks… "I think that this proves it was a very hurried decision taken by the organisers. At first we were ruled out of the race as our bike is over the 450cc set out in the regulations. Now they have decided on something that is halfway, putting a limit on our bike. This is not a solution but it means we can participate and have a competitive machine."
Questions… How do you think a battle between these bikes and those of 450cc will develop?
Marc Coma Speaks… "At the moment it is a complete unknown, looking at the differences between between them. At first we were a little worried because the modification adversely affected the bike’s performance, but after some hard work we have a good bike and so we are bit calmer in that respect."
Question… Are the tire problems over?
Marc Coma Speaks… "Obviously tires are one of the crucial points if you want to win the Dakar, they play a fundamental role. Last year we won with Pirelli, and this year we have decided to continue with the same products that gave us the victory, and hoping to have the same luck."
Question… With a race of this type, five specials over 400km and even one of 600km, how might this affect the limited bikes?
Marc Coma Speaks… "I think the distance will not affect them much because the bike’s performance is the same on both a special of 400km and one of 600km. I am sure that we have not lost any reliability either, but we are aware that we will suffer with the ballast, and the loss of power, but we have prepared for this so that we can tackle it in the best possible way."
Question… Reducing the power means that the average speed will be lower doesn’t it?
Marc Coma Speaks… "The top speed will be lower at some points but to be frank I think that the first part of the throttle, that is at lower revs, the engine is performing at practically the same level that we had before. I think it will have little influence."
Question… However, using a limited engine will make the bike less effective as it is heavier. Could this be a big handicap?
Marc Coma Speaks… "Yes, it is a compromise that we have to play around with, because the bike has lost power and we have the same weight so in theory we are going to lose a little bit of effectivity. But as I said I think the bike has more than enough potential to tackle a race like this with guarantees."
Questions… Will navigation be more important?
Marc Coma Speaks… "In general I don’t think so. Navigation will still have its role but at the same level within the race that we are used to."
Questions… Have the contenders for the victory changed?
Marc Coma Speaks… "I think in the end they will be the same as always. If something is not known it is for example the potential of the Aprilia and Sherco motorbikes, new ones that one day in the future may be winners, but at the moment we do not know if they are reliable. We know the potential of David Fretigne’s Yamaha, Cyril Despres’ KTM, and in the end it will be the same names fighting to win."
Questions… And has your objective changed?
Marc Coma Speaks… "Not at all. We have to be aware that the winning a Dakar is always very difficult, a complicated challenge where many factors come into play. You have to get them all right if you want to win, and we have to take things calmly if we want to do our own race."
Question… Will you be obliged to change the strategy you have had in the last few years?
Marc Coma Speaks… "Not really. We will be fighting every inch of the way as always, trying to make things as diffícult as possible for the others, and always doing our best. When we go fast or when we hold back a little is an internal matter."
Question… What do you think of this year’s route?
Marc Coma Speaks… "I think it is better than last year’s, more time in the Atacama, more stages in the open desert, with more dunes and more off-road. This means it will be tougher and more difficult, and I think that suits us. I think that it is very complete, with all types of terrain and above all more time in the desert. Therefore we are going to suffer like the rest, we will have some hard times, but the fact that it will be tough suits us."
Question… Can you give us a breakdown of the team members, what is the team structure this year?
Marc Coma Speaks… "The team has three riders again. I will race with Jordi Viladoms supporting me, the change is the arrival of Henk Kniuman, a Dutch rider who will bring solidity and experience to the team. As for the technical side of things, it is practically the same team, each rider with their own mechanic, their respective technicians, and with Jordi Arcarons at the top, the sports manager. I think it is a structure with guarantees."