Marc Coma and Cyril Despres have shared Dakar Rally glory in past seasons and as they set off from Buenos Aires today for the challenges of Dakar 2010 both are optimistic that they can again this year be each other’s greatest opponents.
But Day One of the world’s most famous and challenging rally was largely ceremonial with no timed section and no results. The riders set off and made their way west to Colon where the first timed section starts on Saturday, the second day of the second decade of the 21st century.A huge crowd turned out in the streets of Buenos Aires to see off competitors on their 9000 km journey that will take them across Argentina, into Chile and back to Argentina. This year it includes four stages of the 14-stage marathon through the astonishing Atacama Desert where weather stations have never, ever recorded rain. The race concludes back in Buenos Aires on January 17.In the absence of an official KTM factory team, Coma and Despres, the two undisputed maestros of the world rally scene are competing as KTM-supported riders on board their KTM 690 Rally bikes. To conform to new regulations only introduced in the summer of 2009, their bikes are fitted with restrictors to make them match the performance of 450cc machines, now the norm for the race.But French born Despres and the Spaniard Coma are more than the sum of the power of their engine, as Cyril told the media before the race began. “They might be able to limit the air intake of our KTM 690 rally engines with performance-limiting restrictors, but they cannot put a limit on our experience, our professionalism or our drive. We want to win,” he said.Coma was the Dakar winner in 2009, the first ever held in South America and he too is confident: “It has always been that Cyril and I would win the Rally alternately… this year however I aim to beat the system and win again!”Photography by J. van Oers