Aprilia Takes Stage Win In Dakar

Paul Carruthers | January 6, 2010

So much for the plight of the 450s in the Dakar Rally. Although Francisco Lopez Contardo was able to score a popular stage victory today in his homeland of Chile on his Aprilia 450, hopes for a 450 overall victory in the rally took a big blow with the withdrawal from the event by Sherco’s David Casteu.

Casteu, who went into today’s fifth stage in second place overall and trailing leader Cyril Despres by eight minutes and 53 seconds, crashed at the 245-mile mark and suffered a leg injury that has forced him out of this year’s race.

Despres rode his Red Bull KTM to second today behind Lopez Contardo and now leads the rally by a whopping 37 minutes and 37 seconds over the Chilean, who has moved into second place in the overall standings.

Yamaha-mounted Helder Rodrigues is third on another of the 450s after finishing sixth in today’s stage that ran from Copiapo to Antofagasta with a 299-mile special stage.

Yamaha’s David Fretigne was third today, but is still well back in 15th overall after suffering mechanical woes in stage three.

“We found David [Casteu] on the ground,” Fretigne said on the offiical website of the rally. “He had caught dust in a ravine. Unfortunately Goncalves had had to switch David’s beacon on. His leg was injured. I stayed four or five minutes with him. He was okay. Then the helicopter and the med SUV arrived. After that you can’t go back on the track with the exact same state of mind because when you see that a rider like him can make a small mistake it is a reality check. So you try to focus on the track and on navigation. 480 km is really long. It is very hard to have the exact same focus all along. It only takes two tiny seconds of lack of attention at a bad time and you can hit a rock, dip into a ravine and fall. You have to be careful. As far as I am concerned, I must climb back in the standings slowly but surely. A Dakar is always full of surprises and changes in the standings. That’s what this race is about and the race is still long.”

Today was another bad day for defending champion Marc Coma. The Spaniard looked to have today’s stage in hand with a six-minute lead at CP3, but he encountered mechanical issues 230 miles into the stage and he lost some 40 minutes working on his bike. Coma was 19th in the stage and is now seventh – an hour and 16 minutes behind his KTM teammate Despres in the overall standings.

That gave the lead to Despres, but he was overhauled by Lopez Contardo and the Aprilia.

American Jonah Street was 12th today, but moves to sixth in the overall standings

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.