Dakar Stage Eight (8): Despres and Coma update

Riders in the Dakar 2010 tackled their penultimate day in the dry and daunting Atacama Desert near Chile’s Pacific coastline for Stage Eight with KTM’s Marc Coma placing second by just 42 second behind local favorite Francisco Lopez while overall leader Cyril Despres finished fifth.

KTM’s Despres, aware that anything can happen in the second half of the rally, managed a solid ride despite encountering stones that knocked his wheels about. He only relinquished just short of seven minutes of his overall lead and is now 1 hour 20 minutes 31 seconds ahead of Pal Ullevalseter (KTM) of Norway.

Despres says he has an incredible day

The French -born Despres, who is the 2009 World Rally champion, said it had been "an incredible day" in which he had battled against himself during the ride. "I felt good on the bike, solid, strong and not too tired. I hit two stones, one at the front and one at the back. I didn’t really realize at the time, but when I got to the 245-km point, I saw that the wheels were in a state. Split in two! Smashed to bits! I was lucky because Ruben (Faria), the second rider in the Red Bull team, turned up at that moment. We swapped our front rims because I didn’t think the back one needed to be changed. When I set off again I made sure I was careful of the stones and looked after the back wheel. Anything can happen in the Dakar so I didn’t take any risks. We were 15′ behind at the petrol point. Luckily, Ruben arrived two or three minutes behind me. He rode well and hadn’t been too rough with the rims. It was a really incredible day".

Coma’s problems continue
Coma whose Dakar 2010 has been beset with problems from the first day had to call on his mental strength to get back into the rally after being handed another time penalty on the rest day for what organizers decided was an infringement concerning a tire change. The penalty pushes him down the order in the overall standings and virtually out of contention for the top prize so he did well to bounce back and ride a good race for second in the stage just behind Chile’s own Lopez. At the end of the day Coma was at twelfth in the overall rankings but has little chance of being able to make up the time difference. The announcement about Coma’s additional penalty came only on Saturday evening at the close of the rest day.

Coma maintains a good pace
Coma admitted it had been a difficult day for him. "Today, I climbed back on my bike to try, like I always do, to do my best and forget all that as well. It was a fine stage with magnificent dunes at the end, while there were a lot of stones at the beginning. I kept the pace until the petrol supply point then I went out in front, maintained a good pace and navigated well. I’m happy with my day".

Refreshed from the rest day on Saturday, competitors travelled from Antofagasta back to Copiapo on a ride that included a 472 km special with fast and rocky terrain and ended back in the sweeping sand dunes. Monday they will be back in the dunes, the camel grass and fast on and off track riding for their final day in the desert, which includes a 373 km special.

2010 Dakar Stage Eight (8) Results
1. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
2. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM (at 00:42")
3. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
4. David Fretegne, France, Yamaha
5. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 6:43)

2010 Dakar Overall standings after Stage Eight (8)
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM (at 1 h 20’31")
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. Alain Duclos, France KTM
12. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM