Yamaha Man Leads Dakar Rally

Paul Carruthers | January 2, 2004

The second stage of the Dakar Rally was held today, with the short, 15.5-mile stage going to Frenchman David Fretigne aboard his two-wheel drive Yamaha YZF450.

The stage was held in muddy conditions after yesterday’s snow melted around the French town of Narbonne and the two-wheel drive Yamaha thrived in the conditions. Fretigne, in his Dakar Rally debut, completed the stage in 22 minutes, 47 seconds to become the early leader of the rally.

“I clocked the best time without really taking any risks,” Fretigne said later in a press release. “I didn’t feel I was riding fast. It’s the first time I use the bike in mud and it really helped me. Having a two-wheel drive bike helps a lot going out of bends. I felt great. Winning the special and leading the overall is of course good. The hardest is yet to come however.”

KTM’s Cyril Despres ended the day in second place, the Frenchman having finished second in last year’s race. Spain’s Joan Roma ended up third on another KTM, some 57 seconds behind Fretigne. Defending champion Richard Sainct was fourth, 58 seconds behind with Italian Fabrizio Meoni over two minutes behind on his KTM twin.

As for the Americans on the Red Bull KTM team, Larry Roeseler is the best of the bunch thus far, the off-road legend holding down 20th overall. Scot Harden is 36th with Paul Krause sitting in 44th overall after the first two days of the rally.

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.