Marc Coma Penalty
Click video to learn more about the a race changing penalty. Marc Coma, Dakar reigning champion in the motorbike category, has been handed a six-hour penalty by organisers for an illegal tire change during the previous day’s seventh stage.
Coma had been running in second place overall, one hour behind leader Cyril Despres of France, however the penalty has all but put an end to the Spanish KTM rider’s title defence.
"The stop he made behind a house and the images we have thanks to Google which show exactly where he stopped and for how long, coupled with today’s high definition images of the tyre… these images are clear, the tyre did not do 200km," said Marc Ducrocq, course director.
"The decision has therefore been taken by the organisers to hand him a six-hour penalty."
"Everyone knew that he had tyre problems. He tried to sort it out in his own way and he was caught," said Ducrocq, who added that the Spanish rider "continues to insist that he did not change a wheel."
Coma, the Dakar motorcycle winner in 2006 and 2009, denied any wrongdoing.
"I consider this decision an injustice. At no time can it be proved that I changed a wheel," said Coma, adding that he would take a day to consider whether to continue on in the race.
"It depends a bit on the mental state in which I find myself."
The punishment leaves fellow KTM rider Despres now one hour and 20 minutes ahead of his new nearest rival, Helder Rodrigues of Portugal on a Yamaha, with Norwegian KTM racer Pal Ullevalseter a further five minutes back.
It now seems that only a big accident or mechanical failure can stop Despres from winning his third Dakar title.
Coma had told reporters after Stage 7: "It was a very long day. But it’s over we made it to the rest day. We will be able to tend to the bike. Today, I had to be mindful of the speed to spare my tires."