Following a navigation error yesterday, KTM factory rider Marc Coma rode with a passion in Stage Four to take his second stage victory in Dakar 2012 and claw back two minutes on overall leader and team-mate Cyril Despres. Both riders are going for their fourth Dakar title.

Coma of Spain went off sixth from San Juan but registered his intention to be the one to beat by being fastest at the first waypoint of the day. Despres, first off in the morning to open the road after yesterday’s stage win, was in third place just 15 seconds behind.

Then came the day’s biggest climb when the two riders turned their KTM 450 Rally bikes and charged up the mountain that took them to their highest point so far in this, the 33rd edition of the world’s most famous rally. It was still Coma with the advantage at the end of the climb that took them up to 3200m. Despres who later admitted he had taken particular caution to avoid any costly mistakes had slipped to sixth and was two minutes 49 behind.


Despres then went on the chase and had moved into second by waypoint three having halved the time deficit between him and the leader. The two KTM riders raced together for the rest of the day but it was Coma who crossed the line first to claim his second stage win in this edition. Despres finished just over two minutes later. The French rider is still ahead by 8 minutes 10 seconds in the overall standings but Coma managed to make up a useful slice of the time he lost when he was forced to ride another 12km following his navigational error in Stage Three.

Marc Coma: “It was a very tough special, in particular at the beginning with the fast start. Then we had to focus on the navigation and tackle a lot of water in the rivers. I tried to ride at a very fast pace from the beginning but it was difficult. I was able to overtake a few riders and make up some time on Cyril. Fiambala and many other stages still lie ahead. That is the way things are right now. And I keep on fighting every day.”

Cyril Despres: “It was difficult because the rainfall in the region these last few days furrowed the tracks and exposed big rocks. It is also very physically demanding in this heat and difficult to maintain a fast pace. So I am quite happy with my performance today. At the beginning I saw Marc surge ahead and I knew he would claw some time back but I focused on the navigation to avoid making any mistakes.” Despres said he had paid particular close attention to the road book, which had almost 400 notes for Stage Four. 

After another hard day’s liaison of 424km and 326km of tough riding in the timed special, Despres and Coma are separated by eight minutes in the aggregate times. Third overall is currently French rider David Helder Rodrigues of Portugal who now trails Despres by 26 minutes 48.

On their journey to Chilecito through the province of La Rioja riders encountered the classic deep canyons of the region, which are tricky to navigate. Tomorrow, in Stage Five, it will be a very different story as they battle it out between Chilecito and Fiambalá where they encounter the notorious sticky sand dunes.

Coma and Despres have won three of the four stages so far but there are many potential pitfalls waiting for them on the rest of the journey to Lima, Peru, when the rally finishes on January 15 after almost 9,000 km. 

Other action on Wednesday saw Coma’s support rider Joan Pedrero of Spain move up the order with a good ride to finish sixth in the stage results. He is currently eighth overall. Rubin Faria, the support rider for Cyril Despres, has picked up a 40-minute penalty and finished Wednesday in 19th place. Johnny Aubert, KTM’s Enduro Factory rider and Dakar rookie, was 37th today. He is riding a standard series KTM 450 rally bike and is on a mission to learn as much as possible about the world’s greatest rally.  

Overall Results after Stage Four

1 Cyril Despres (France, KTM) 11 hours 50.27

2 Marc Coma (Spain, KTM) at 8 minutes 10 seconds 

3 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal, Yamaha) at 26.48

4 Chaleco Lopez (Chile, Aprilia) at 29.50

5 David Casteu (France, Yamaha) at 30.37