Today’s stage was a good one for veteran Dakar Rally racers Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, the former winning stage 12 with the latter crossed the line just behind him to further increase his lead in the overall standings of the world’s toughest rally. But for Joan Barreda, the man who has held either first or second overall for the duration of the rally, the day was nothing short of a nightmare as he lost almost two and a half hours to the leaders, his factory Honda having broken a steering head with some 15 miles to go.
For Despres the day was a total success, the defending Dakar champion riding to his second stage win of this year’s race as he starts to climb up the ladder of the overall standings. He did so despite missing a waypoint, though since Coma was in his tire tracks the pair both had to circle back.
“It was a nice stage,” Despres said. “Quite fast at the beginning, a lot of rocks also and then not that easy navigation on the last part. I’m pretty happy to navigate and I really enjoyed the day a lot, which is really important.”
Coma ended up just two minutes and 17 seconds behind Despres, the factory Red Bull KTM rider now leading Jordi Viladoms in the overalls standings by almost two hours. Barreda, meanwhile, has dropped to seventh overall – over three hours behind Coma.
“Today was a very long stage, 350 km [217 miles],” Coma said. “We finished in the Copiapo dunes. This means it is always tough, difficult and not easy for navigating. From the past we know that normally this stage is decisive. So now I’m here, I’m happy of course. We stayed together with Cyril [Despres] all day and we arrived at the end without any big problems. Of course, there are always some small mistakes and we had to find the waypoint. For tomorrow, there is still 150 km [93 miles] and this is a lot. It’s like I’m fighting for myself to be focused, to push every day and just follow the way that brings me here. So I’ll carry on like that.”
Vilodoms, who was fifth today and over nine minutes behind Despres, moves to second overall with Barreda’s woes. And although he’s almost two hours behind Coma, he knows it’s not over until it’s over.
“You can never say it’s over when there is still a special to be ridden,” Viladoms said. “There are still a fair amount of kilometers to be covered… But it’s obvious that I’m very happy with what I’ve done up until now. As for Joan [Barreda] I don’t know where he is. I saw him repairing on the side of the tracks and I don’t know if he will be able to finish in time… we’ll see. For the moment, I’m third and tomorrow anything can still happen. In any case, I’m very happy with the work that all the team has put in. If we can improve on our position, then it’s a bonus and so much the better.”