Francisco Lopez Contardo has done it again, the Aprilia-mounted Chilean winning his third stage of this year's Dakar Rally today and the fourth of his career. Lopez Contardo earned the win in the 295-mile timed section of the 494 total miles, the longest of this year's event, which took the field from San Juan to San Rafael in Argentina.
Lopez Contardo beat Yamaha's David Fretigne in today's special, topping the Frenchman by 50 seconds. He was also a minute and 13 seconds ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter, the Norwegian who led him in the overall standings heading in to today's stage. Lopez Contardo is now a bit over a minute ahead of Ullevalseter in the battle for second overall.
Red Bull KTM's Cyril Despres continues to hold a comfortable lead of an hour and three minutes in the overall standings. The Frenchman was eighth in today's stage, some 17 minutes behind Lopez Contardo. Today's result was the worst of this year's rally for Despres.
Fourth place today went to Red Bull KTM's Marc Coma, the defending champion climbing to 11th in the overall standings.
American Johan Street was 10th in today's 12th stage and sits seventh in the overall standings. He is over half an hour behind sixth-placed Alain Duclos and some 30 minutes clear of eighth-placed Jakub Przygonski.
We've just learned that yesterday's results from stage 11 have changed... the following explanation is from KTM.
Meanwhile, KTM's Marc Coma, who was fourth on Thursday in Stage 12, was handed an unexpected bonus on Thursday morning when it was announced that race stewards awarded credits to riders who were mislead by incorrect markings on Wednesday's track. The credits vaulted him into first place and sealed his fourth stage victory for this Dakar. The new results for Stage 11 put Coma 5'13" ahead of Frenchman David Fretegne with Frans Verhoeven of the Netherlands in third. The adjustment did not affect the overall leader Despres but meant that the second overall, Norwegian KTM rider Pal Ullevalseter shared the second placed ranking with Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez of Chile.
Tough and hot, Coma says.
Marc Coma said it had been a tough special with a variety of terrain. "The first part of the special was very different from the second section, which required more riding skill," he said. "It was quite tough. I had a small problem with the bike because of the heat .... so I dropped my pace a little in the second part. But it was a fairly nice special and there was an incredible amount of people".
Riders tackled their longest stretch on the rally on Thursday as they rode from San Juan to San Rafael, an overall distance of just short of 800 km and a timed section of 476 km. Coming out of the special they took a short tarmac section to go round a protected area and then faced a tough and tiring sandy stretch. The day was characterized by speed, jumps, spectacular scenery and long tiring kilometers in the saddle, which included another 276 km to the bivouac in San Rafael. The nature of the track made it more favorable for the 450 cc machines. KTM-supported riders Despres and Coma are on KTM 690 Rally bikes fitted with air restrictors to reduce the performance to the level of 450's, in accordance with regulations laid down in mid 2009.
The motorcycle competitors who made it to San Rafael - some 90 of the original 160 starters - are now on the home stretch back to Buenos Aires but still have to fight their way through two more stages to complete this daunting 9000 km marathon. Tomorrow they face almost 40 km of grey sand of the Nihiul dunes before they hit the fast track back to the end of the stage. The special is 368 km and the finish is at Santa Rosa.
Adjusted Stage 11 Results (After race stewards reversed the order overnight)
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
3. Frans Verhoeven, Netherlands
4. Jonah Street, USA, KTM
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
Stage 12 Results
1. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
2. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
3. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
4. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
5. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
8. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 17"12')