Going into the final stages of the Dakar Rally, Marc Coma has a 54 minute lead on his arch rival and fellow KTM rider Cyril Despres in this classic that truly tests man and machine.
But with just days to go, the Spanish rider is far from confident saying he has not won until he climbs onto the top podium spot in Dakar. With just three days and 700 km to the finish, Coma (KTM Repsol) still looks fresh.
KTM: Are you still not getting tired?
Coma: 'I am, but it doesn't show. Tiredness tends to be internal with me. But in general I do feel fit. I have had a lot of training before and that helps me to keep up my fitness. Besides that, I'm really in the best team possible and everybody knows their task. That helps a lot in getting rest and sleep; if I need it.'
KTM: Don't you miss Giovanni Sala and Jordi Viladoms as supporting riders?
Coma: 'Losing Gio and Jordi is a real pity. They were very important to me. Together with my team manager Jordi Arcarons I try to find the best solutions for me without the help of back up riders. On the other hand: in the end you are on your own anyway.'
KTM: You are not very far away from your second victory. Are you thinking about that?
Coma: 'No, not at all. I'll only think of myself as the winner if I am on the podium in Dakar. Not an hour earlier. Of course I am happy with my leading position in the general standings, sure. Everything is going according to plan. But I have seen too much to think that I have won already. Too much can happen in the days we have left. I admit that 54 minutes is quite an advantage, but it would be possible for someone to catch me. Anything can happen. I have not won yet, I can still lose.'
KTM: What you think of the Dakar so far? It doesn't seem the toughest one in years.
Coma: 'The Dakar is always tough. A few of the stages at the beginning were more difficult than before. And Mauritania is never easy. The organisation has taken out one extremely hard stage, which normally would have knocked out many competitors and due to the safety measures more people can stay in the race. For me it is a matter of staying concentrated and not making mistakes. But that's the case in every Dakar, in every race.'
KTM: How about the remaining days?
Coma : 'As I said, it is not over yet. It doesn't seem far anymore, but the last three days are always difficult. Not in concentration and motivation—that is no problem for me at all—but the circumstances will be completely different from what we've experienced so far. There will be trees, people, villages, animals, holes, rocks, water. A cow crossing the track can ruin everything and there is nothing to do about that. That is also why I consider 54 minutes in front of Cyril Despres not yet a safe margin.'