For all practical purposes, KTM's Marc Coma lost the Dakar Rally today in the sand dunes of today's special, the Spaniard getting lost and losing 12 minutes and 38 seconds to Cyril Despres in what was definitely an unlucky stage 13 for the defending race champion.
Coma got lost roughly 128 miles into the stage and it proved costly. He will start tomorrow's very short, 18-mile stage 11 minutes and three seconds behind Cyril and his Red Bull-backed factory KTM after finishing 18th in the stage.
"I am not the kind of person who derives pleasure from the problems of teammates, and even less when it is Marc Coma who is in trouble," Despres said. "I started with the knife between my teeth, knowing he would do the same thing. I took no risks, but tried to gain ground on other riders in turns. At the refuelling station I saw I had clawed back 5 minutes from Marc. I then got lost a couple of times; it was never a big problem but I had to stay focused. Today's stage was psychologically very tough. I always wait until the last day to enjoy things. I have seen so many things happen at the Dakar, and even more today. I want to stay calm and enjoy things a bit more."
Today's stage was won by Yamaha's Helder Rodrigues, the Portuguese rider winning his second stage of this year's rally. He topped Despres by 47 seconds.
Bordone-Ferrari KTM's Jordi Vilodoms was third in today's stage, three minutes behind Rodrigues and some two minutes ahead of Husqvarna-mounted Joan Barreda.
Barreda's teammate Paulo Goncalves rounded out the top five in today's stage.
With Despres and Coma way out front, Rodrigues also has a solid handle on the final podium position. He's 30 minutes clear of Viladoms.
Fifth place overall is being held by Stefan Svitko, the Slovakian finishing 11th in today's stage.