Marc Coma, the current Dakar title holder and KTM-supported rider rose to the challenge on Tuesday to take victory in the fourth stage of the Dakar 2010 as riders descended down the Andes into Chile heading for the notorious Atacama Desert.
KTM’s Cyril Despres came in third in the stage, 3’14 behind Coma but continues to maintain his overall lead. He is currently almost nine minutes in front of second placed David Casteu in the overall rankings.
Happy to be back in the desert and on terrain that suits the KTM bikes, Despres said the fourth stage had been good. "We finally hit a terrain that is better for our KTM bikes. It’s nice to have the wind in the face and to pick up speed… Navigation was fun too with the first changes in course – which were pretty tricky by the way. And the first small dunes, the first camel grass… the desert, for sure!"
Coma’s stage victory was an important boost to the professional Spanish rider, who, along with Despres has dominated the international rally sport in recent years. He has now climbed into sixth overall but is still almost 39 minutes behind Despres in the overall reckoning, 22 of which resulted from a speed penalty on day two. Coma said it had been an important day after some bad results and bad luck. "We got our good habits back and we got back on the right track. I am very happy to be here. It’s good for the moral of the team after a few bad days. The strategy is something you do each day. We will make the most of the race, climb in the standings, and move forward… till the end. We won’t let our guard down!"
The Dakar Rally is – as both Coma and Despres, both former winners know from experience – is a law unto itself and anything can happen to shake up the order at any point in the race. Indeed Despres said before the stage that there were "a couple of very tough days ahead of us and in those conditions you can go from hero to zero in a very short space of time!"
Due to the late arrival of a number of competitors in Monday’s stage, organizers decided to delay the start today by one and a half hours and to shorten the route. Instead of the planned 203 km special, riders only had to contend with 160 km and the finish was moved forward to the third control point. "Navigation was certainly not easy," said KTM’s Stefan Huber, traveling with the KTM-supported riders. "The mountains and the sandy terrain all looks very much the same!"
Riders descended from around 3000 m altitude high in the Argentinean Andes from Flambala to Copiapo in Chile. Organizers referred to the stage as "an absolute desert special". Competitors will get four tastes of the blisteringly dry conditions in the Atacama Desert in the 2010 edition of the race, an area, said to be drier even than the notorious Death Valley, which has never recorded rain.
2010 Dakar Stage Four (4) Results
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. David Casteu, France, Sherco
3. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 3’14)
4. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
5. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW
2010 Dakar Overall after Stage Four (4)
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. David Casteu, France, Sherco (at 8’53)
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Luca Manca, Italy, KTM
5. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
8. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM