Repsol KTM's Marc Coma clawed his way back to the top of the Dakar Rally today, the Spaniard winning his first stage of this year's event on the run from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy and topping his rival Cyril Despres in the process. And after three stages of this year's Dakar, the two are separated by just 14 seconds with Despres maintaining his overall lead by the slimmest of margins.
"That was a really authentic Dakar day: the first part with lots of navigation, then more riding on the rest," Coma said in a press release. "I'm happy with where I am. I took advantage of a little navigation mistake by Cyril Despres. Of course it's important to win a special, but my aim is to win the rally".
Despres' Red Bull KTM teammate Ruben Faria maintains his hold on third place, but he is now nine minutes and 38 seconds behind Despres in the overall standings after finishing fifth in today's stage. Despres didn't have an easy day.
"Marc Coma caught up with me very quickly," Despres said. "There were a lot of riders at the start of the special. I was very careful during the first 10 kilometres and then after 11 km I got it completely wrong. I didn't lose two hours, but several precious minutes. In the end, I limited the damage, because I finished 20 seconds behind Marc. He must have gain 2 minutes 20 seconds on me. It's not huge amount of time, but I would've liked to have kept it for myself".
Yamaha France's Olivier Pain, the Frenchman moving to sixth overall after overcoming a two-minute penalty along the way, beat Faria today to finish fourth in the stage.
Fourth-place overall is being held by BMW Motorrad By Speedbrain's Paolo Goncalves with the Portuguese rider finishing today's stage in third. He is some six minutes clear of BMW's Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho, the Brazilian moving to fifth overall after finishing sixth in today's stage.
American Jonah Street ended stage three in 11th place and drops to 10th overall, but only two-some minutes behind seventh-placed Francisco Lopez Contardo, who lost some 10 minutes while repairing a fuel-pump issue. Helder Rodrigues and Juan Pedrero Garcia sit between the two in the overall standings in eighth and ninth, respectively.
Sherco's David Casteu was ninth today and sits 11th overall after amassing four minutes in penalties thus far in the rally.
American Quinn Cody is 13th overall in his first Dakar Rally, the Honda rider from California finishing 14th in today's stage.