KTM’s two triple Dakar Rally winners Marc Coma and Cyril Despres got down to serious business in Stage Two of the 33rd edition of the world’s most challenging rally with Coma notching his first stage victory for 2012 ahead of factory team-mate Despres to take the lead in the overall standings.
It was a day that tested both concentration and endurance, starting with a long and fast liaison over hard terrain as riders turned their machines towards the Sierra Nevadas. It then plunged them into the notoriously tricky dunes at El Nihuil and their challenging soft grey volcanic sand at the end of the day to complete the gruelling 295km of timed special. At the end of the day, KTM’s two top riders were separated by just one minute 18 seconds. Coma’s hard ride to take the stage also vaulted him ahead of Stage One winner Chaleco Lopez of Chile and he now has a two-and-a-half minute advantage in the overall standings going into Stage Three.
Coma said the first part of the timed special had been very fast as he rode together with Lopez, a prelude to the difficult ride in the soft sand. “It was a lot more technical and with some navigation to do as well,” he explained. “I took the lead and kept riding at a good pace. I’m happy because I didn’t get lost. So it’s been a good day for me!”
Despres finished 13th in the short 57km timed special on the opening day which he used as a warm up for what will be a testing 15-day journey to Lima. But on Stage Two he turned up the heat and advanced to the front of the field. Finishing second to Coma on Day Two was a confidence builder Despres said, even if he had to eat a bit of dust while overtaking other riders in the opening part of the ride.
The Dakar 2012 is expected to be another face-off between these two riders who have each three Dakar titles to their names and have won on alternate years for the past six editions to create one of the great rivalries in today’s motorsports.
Husqvarna rider Joan Barreda showed his and his bike’s true potential in Stage Two. The Spaniard powered his 449RR by Speedbrain to third place in what’s been the first real test in this year’s race. He then received a time penalty of five minutes because he lost his time card during strong winds on Sunday. Barreda bounced back and has improved to fifth place overall.
“The first 170 km were very fast, often full throttle,” says Barreda. “Then came a river bed with huge stones. I didn’t start any takeovers, as it was pretty risky to crash. I gained ground to the riders in front of me, managed to pass them in the sand and make up time. The final kilometres were physical and reminded me of a sandy motocross track. Navigation was tricky also. I’m happy to start tomorrow’s stage in third.”