Stage 13: Cordoba to Buenos Aires
After the motorcycle field at the 2011 Dakar Rally was put through 9,500 km over the past 15 days, KTM was victorious, taking its 10th Dakar title.
By the time the second half of the Dakar began, it appeared it would be a duel between KTM riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres. This assumption was true, and it was the Spaniard Coma who edged out the Frenchman Despres for the overall victory, taking the win by 15:04 minutes.
In the actual final stage (13), the riders traveled from Cordoba to Buenos Aires through a 645-km link and a relatively short 181-km special, which finished at the Baradero racing track in the Argentinean capital.
On the way to his overall victory, Coma played it smart, riding just hard enough to not make any stupid mistakes. He finished in fifth, behind Despres in fourth. As for the top three, Frans Verhoeven (Belgium, BMW) took the win, followed by Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, Yamaha) and Jean De Azevedo (Brazil, KTM).
But the story was of Coma, who has now tied Despres, both riders winning three Dakar Championships.
Marc Coma (KTM Dakar) says: "Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win. What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough was ending, the next one was even tougher.
"We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days.
"It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years. I have to pay tribute to all the people in my team, who supported me. We had ambitious goals and to reach them we had to have the best, people made for the Dakar and willing to all work towards the same goal.
"As anyone in the Dakar, we had tough times. So I am going to get some rest and think about the future. Becaue, truth is that with the race and the permanent tension I did not have time to think about anything else in a long time."
Despres has happy with his second-place overall finish, but says two small mistakes had major consequences for him, including the 10-minute penalty he endured.
Cyril Despres (KTM Dakar) says: "This special is different if you are in first place as it was the case last year… then you want the race to be shorter. When you are second, you would want the race to be longer.
"But anyway, the feeling of finishing a Dakar is always nice especially here with all the people welcoming you. I am sad I could not do better than this though I raced 11 Dakar, won 3 and ended 8 times on the podium.
"One more would have been great. But I just could not make any better. I made some mistakes; they were two small mistakes but they held some heavy consequences.
As for third, it looked to be Chilean rider Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez; he was the only rider to remain within an hour of the two KTM riders throughout the second half of 2011 Dakar.
But he had some major issues during the final stage; he broke a rear shock absorber just 22 km from the end, and lost third overall to Rodrigues.
Chaleco would have to settle for fourth, and fifth went to Juan Pedrero of Spain on yet another KTM Rally 450; he finished 3:07.03 seconds behind Coma.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage 13 Results
1. Frans Verhoeven, Belgium, BMW
2. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 00:05
3. Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 26:04 at 00:05
4. Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 00:44
5. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 2:16
2011 Dakar Rally Final Overall Results
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 15:04
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 1:40:20
4. Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia,
5. Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:07:03
6. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM at 3:32:56
7. Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 3:59:38
8. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 4:13:01
9. Quinn Cody, USA, HONDA, 4:52:10
10. Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM, 06:13:41