KTM's two leading factory riders, Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, both veterans and winners of previous Dakar rallies, were again in a class of their own in Stage 12 of the 2009 race.
Coma continues his charge to overall victory with a commanding lead of one hour 29 minutes and 48 seconds, and Despres, as stage winner, dislodged Frenchman David Fretegne and is now in second place. Despres (Red Bull KTM) finished just 1:23 ahead of Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) with Gerard Farres (KTM) third at 9:47. Fretigne is now third overall just four minutes seven seconds behind Despres at 1:33:55.
Riders faced another weather phenomenon on Thursday when the Argentinean skies opened up to a downpour of rain, which, together with accompanying wind, added another difficult dimension to the day's ride. The original course had also been shortened by about 30 km to bypass recently discovered archeological treasures on the original route.
“The navigation was really difficult today, it was like a treasure hunt, and it is always a pleasure when you find the right point,” stage winner Despres said. “Then three or four kilometers from the end it got a little less fun with a modification to the road book that wasn't too clear and I lost some minutes. I heard Frétigné's engine at the first refuelling CP and it didn't sound too good, so I guessed there was a good chance of getting the second place overall.”
Leader Coma said after stage 12, “It started to rain this morning at breakfast and we were a little bit worried what that would do to the special. Fortunately it wasn't too bad. There were some places where it was a little muddy, but nothing serious. The thing that made today difficult was the navigation - particularly at the end. I don't think the road book was wrong, just difficult to interpret. The sand was also very soft which didn't make life any easier!
Covering territory used in other rallies, the penultimate stage 13 on Friday, from Argentina's La Rioja to Cordoba, is likely to attract a lot of local support. Riders will need their full attention to work their way through the cactus country including a physically draining 545 km special.
Provisional results after Stage 12
1. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
2. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
3. Gerard Farres Guell, Spain, KTM
4. David Casteu, France, KTM
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, KTM
6. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
7. Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM
8. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
9. Jakob Przygonski, Poland, KTM
10. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, KTM
13. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
Provisional overall standings after Stage 12
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
3. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
4. David Casteu, France, KTM
5. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, KTM
6. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
7. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM
8. Frans Verhofen, Netherlands, KTM
9. Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM
10. Paulo Goncalves, Portugal, Honda
35. Alain Duclos, France, KTM