2011 Dakar Rally: First Half Review

2011 Dakar News

The 2011 Dakar Rally has presented many challenges to the motorcyclists, as they traveled over 4,500 km throughout the first six stages. But the Dakar has even more challenges in the remaining seven stages, which begin today as riders travel from Arica and Buenos Aires.

KTM rider Marc Coma leads the motorcycle category, leading fellow reigning title-holder and teammate Cyril Despres. In third aboard an Aprilia Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez; in fouth is Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) in fifth is Ruben Faria (KTM).

Much news has surrounded Faria this year. After Stage 6 on Friday, Faria lost his victory for the second time.

The first time for the KTM Rally 450 rider was after he was penalized for speeding during Stage 1, which dropped him back to second.

But on Friday, the Portuguese man lost more than one position at Stage 6 in the Dakar. Faria initially won, but reportedly did not respect the obligation to stop for 15 minutes during refueling.

He initially lost some time, but then the Dakar reported a mistake in timing error from race marshals; they let Faria leave 4 minutes early – and not 9:47 seconds as previously announced. The Dakar rider was therefore given back the additional 4 minutes on his total timing, which bounced him from seventh into third in the final of Stage 6.

Going into the second half of the 2011 Dakar rally, riders have many obstacles. The diagonal route on the Latin-American continent between Arica and Buenos Aires might be the stage of living dangerously for the provisional rankings leaders who do not have a sufficient safety margin in the lead for the seven stages to come.

Following is an official Dakar Report: If it hadn’t been for a careless blunder, title holder in the bike category, Cyril Despres would be in the lead of the Dakar come the rest day. He would even have a 1:12 lead on his main rival Marc Coma. But due to gloves forgotten and signs not respected in the start area at stage 4, the Frenchman was given a 10′ penalty and is now in pursuit.

Hence, the winner of the 2006-2009 raid winner is in the lead, 8:48 seconds ahead of the pack. As foreseen, the two KTM riders have been involved in a fierce struggle since the beginning of the rally raid and share 4 of the 6 stage victories between them. Behind the two rivals, a significant gap is taking shape in the rankings.

Chilean rider Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez on Aprilia, ranking third and still looking for stage victory on home turf, is limiting the damage 22 minutes behind Coma.

One thing is sure; the struggle for a place on the podium will be huge. After 2,099 km of special stages, the riders in the Top 5 are all in a 30-minute bracket – with the two Portuguese riders Rodrigues and Faria ranking fourth and fifth. Portugal is definitely a hit on this Dakar as Helder Rodrigues and Paulo Gonçalves both have a stage victory in their track records.

Gonçalves even offered BMW its first stage victory since some Cyril Despres won in Tambacounda in 2001. Unfortunately, this stage success was not a good luck omen for the Portuguese rider as he then lost all chances of ending on the podium due to some electrical problems on his G 450 RR on the eve of the rest day.

The first week of the Dakar also saw many tough times. Olivier Pain seemed to be in a good position for a first stage victory and a place in the Top 10 but he fell en route to Iquique and had to withdraw with a broken wrist.

David Casteu who had shined last year in the first stages riding his very promising Sherco bike broke his gearbox at stage two in Chile and ended up relegated in the depth of the rankings, almost 6 hours behind the leader. Alain Duclos, the official Aprilia rider, had some serious mechanical trouble right at the start and seriously crashed off trail.

The Franco-Malian rider is now ranking 78th, more than 7 hours behind Coma. As for the first-time contenders, Bajas specialist Quinn Cody – riding a Honda – is proving to be a fast learner; he finished five of the 6 first stages of the Dakar in the Top 15 and is now ranking 12th in the general rankings.

As for women, it will be hard to steal the first place from Annie Seel. The title holder in the women’s ranking is now 45th in the general rankings and has a pretty good 90′ lead on Jordi Arcarons’ protégée, Laia Sanz Pla.

2011 Dakar Standings after Stage Six
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, 22:40:20
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM, at 8:48
3. Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, 22:12
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, at 27: 35
5. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM at 39:01