Red Bull KTM’s Cyril Despres was gifted the win in yesterday’s stage of the Dakar Rally when his teammate Ruben Faria was docked a minute for a speed-limit infraction, but that wasn’t the case today as the defending race champion won today’s stage from Cordoba to San-Miguel without any assistance from race officials.
Despres rode his KTM to the 25th stage victory of his career on the 186-mile special stage, topping his rival Marc Coma by a minute and 49 seconds, the two-time Dakar Rally winner moving to second in the overall standings where he trails Despres by two minutes and 35 seconds.
“Today the track was full of bends and very skiddy, like a 300-km giant slalom with jumps, like skiing,” Despres said on the Dakar website. “I noticed at the refuelling point that I’d taken almost a minute less than [Marc] Coma. I was feeling good, so I decided to attack a bit in the second part, though I was careful to look after my tires because I nearly wore them through today. The most important thing is to find a god pace and have the right feeling. For the moment, the riding demands a lot of concentration”.
Yesterday’s on-course winner Faria slipped to fifth in today’s stage, losing over five minutes to his teammate Despres. The Portuguese rider is now third overall, 6:13 behind the leader after two stages.
Aprilia-mounted Francisco Lopez Contardo is fourth overall and the first non-KTM rider after finishing fourth in today’s stage with BMW’s Paolo Goncalves fifth overall. David Casteu had a strong ride today on his factory Sherco, the Frenchman making up for yesterday’s disappointment when he struck a spectator with a spirited ride to third – a ride that leapfrogged him from 12th to sixth in the overall standings.
“I asked for news about the spectator that I hit yesterday and he only has two broken ribs, so I’m very relieved, because it wasn’t a very easy evening to go through yesterday,” Casteu said. “Today, I was still thinking about it, but there were much less people on the tracks and I was able to attack a lot. I ended up in the dust of Rodrigues, Viladoms and Verhoeven. I even managed to overtake them, but it wasn’t easy. At one point, I was travelling at 163 kmph [101 mph], which is not bad at all for a 450cc. The bike is working very well and I’m really enjoying riding it”.
American Jonah Street is currently seventh overall after finishing seventh in today’s stage. He is just over 10 minutes behind Despres.
Street’s fellow American Quinn Cody is 13th overall after two stages in his Dakar Rally debut.
One of the riders who normally runs close to the front of the rally, Pal-Anders Ullevalseter, is suffering in this year’s race. The Norwegian is all the way back in 29th overall after two stages and joked today that, “I miss my 690cc.”