Red Bull KTM’s Cyril Despres didn’t lead any of today’s 372-mile stage seven of the Dakar Rally – until the finish. When it counted most.
Marc Coma, Pal anders Ullevalseter, David Fretigne and Francisco Lopez Contardo all took turns at the front during the rally’s longest stage, but it was Despres, the overall leader of the rally, who crossed the finish line first – 29 seconds ahead of Coma.
Fretigne and his Yamaha ended up third today, five minutes behind Despres and some six minutes ahead of Ullevalster.
Despres’ strong finish in today’s stage that consisted of sand dunes, a 30-mile liaison on asphalt to ride around a natural reserve, and plenty of rocks on the route from Inquique to Antofagasta, puts him an hour and six minutes clear of Coma – the defending champion jumping all the way up to second in the overall standings.
Ullevalseter moves to third overall after today’s stage with Fretigne fourth.
“I went into a large ditch at the 150 km mark and exploded the hydraulics of my shock absorber,” Despres said in a team release. “Since then I was riding on a on a spring. I took all the shocks in my arms, wrists and neck, which in the end was almost unbearable. I knew I could count on my tires and the bike didn’t suffer despite the loss of hydraulics. I will have to look at all the screws and bolts, but the bike took me here and that’s good.”