Marc Coma went into today’s eighth stage of the Dakar Rally seven minutes and 48 seconds behind his rival Cyril Despres. After the 448-mile stage that featured 296 miles of special stage racing, Coma is back in the lead of the rally – and 9:32 ahead after Despres got stuck in a mud hole just six miles into the stage.
The mud cost Despres some eight minutes and he was never able to recover after seeing a week’s worth of work evaporate. By the end of the stage he was 14th and now he’s got his work cut out for him as he will attempt to chip back away at Coma’s advantage.
“It was a difficult day, a first part with a lot of mud, where I saw that some riders might have trouble, because it was also hard for me,” Coma said. “I got blocked once and I had to work hard to continue. After that I tried to push until the CP1 and see where the others were. I saw that I was recovering time and I tried to push until the end. I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I imagined they had some trouble with the mud. In the last 100 kilometers [62 miles] I decided to lower the pace a bit and arrive calmly to the end”.
Second place in today’s stage from Copiapo to Antofagasta went to Team Red Bull KTM’s Ruben Faria, the Portuguese rider ending up seven minutes behind Coma. It was Faria’s, who is currently 13th overall, best finish in a stage in this year’s race.
Husqvarna Rallye Team By Speedbrain’s Joan Barreda Bort was third, the Spaniard a minute and 44 seconds behind Faria. Bort is 16th overall after incurring some 45 minutes of penalties in this year’s event.
Fourth place today went to Pole Stefan Svitko on the Oraving Slovnaft KTM. Svitko is now seventh overall.
Third in the overall standings is being held by Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues, the Portuguese rider trailing Coma by 51 minutes and 37 seconds after finishing fifth today.
A second Yamaha, ridden by David Casteu, is fourth overall – just two minutes ahead of Bordone-Ferrari KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.
Husqvarna’s Paulo Goncalves suffered the same fate as Despres today, the Portuguese rider also getting stuck in the mud. He ended up 20th in today’s stage and dropped from fourth overall to eighth.
Aprilia, meanwhile, lost its top rider before stage started with Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez dropping out of the rally with a knee injury he suffered on Saturday.
Throw everything you just read out the window as race officials have adjusted the times of those riders who were stuck in the mud early in Stage 8 today – notably Red Bull KTM factory rider Cyril Despres.
According to the adjusted times, KTM’s Marc Coma still wins the stage and leads the rally, but he is now just one minute 26 seconds ahead of Despres in the overall standings.
The stage win was Coma’s 20th Dakar Stage victory in his career and the fourth in the 2012 edition. Both he and Despres are vying for their fourth Dakar title.
Speaking from the bivouac after the stage, Alex Doringer, team manager for the KTM team, said that while KTM welcomed the race officials’ decision to compensate the riders and reinstate times, the company felt that Coma should have also had some time credited because he was also affected, if to a lesser degree than his teammate.
“We welcome the fact that Cyril’s times have been reinstated, but we feel that if this decision was based on sporting fairness, then Marc’s time should also have been adjusted,” Doringer said.
The mud had appeared in between the time that the official inspection of the stage had taken place and the actual start of the stage and this was the reason it was not marked on the road book.
Stage 8 Results (after time changes)
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Joan Barreda Bort, Spain, Husqvarna
5. Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM
Adjusted Overall Results
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 23 hours, 24 minutes 18 seconds
2. Cyril Despres, France, KTM – 1: 26
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. David Casteu, France, Yamaha
5. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna
6. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM