Dakar Rally: Marc Coma Takes Control

Paul Carruthers | January 9, 2014

Photography by M. Marigni/KTM Images
It’s oftentimes better to be lucky than good. Today in the Dakar Rally, Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma was both.

Coma was forced to do repair work on his KTM’s leaking gas tank in the second section of today’s stage five, forcing him to lose valuable time to his rivals. But then he learned that the second section of the special stage had been cancelled, which mean that the times at the end of the first section would serve as the stage results. And at that point, the three-time winner of the Dakar was in front – so Coma was the winner of today’s stage.

And not only was he a winner, but he was a big winner. With his rivals floundering with mechanical problems, Coma beat his teammate Jordi Viladoms by almost 13 minutes. More importantly, he crushed his main rivals in the stage with Honda’s Joan Barreda – the overall leader going in to stage five – ending up 44 minutes and 20 seconds behind.

“It was another tough day,” Coma said. “It was really hot out there. It’s also difficult in terms of navigation as well because of the rain last week, which makes it difficult to see anything. To get to the end of the stage, I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed. In general, it’s tough for everyone. For the race lead, you can lose lots of time at any moment. When you open the way, it’s a bit like playing Russian roulette.”

Yamaha’s Cyril Despres, meanwhile, had his second bad day in a row, losing another 44 minutes and 54 seconds as those two crossed the finish line 17th and 18th respectively. The second Yamaha factory bike ridden by Olivier Pain also had troubles and he the Frenchman dropped to 20th in the stage – almost 46 minutes behind Coma.

Coma’s fellow KTM rider Chaleco Lopez also had problems and dropped over 51 minutes to his teammate.

Thus the overall standings were changed completely with Coma taking over at the top – and holding down a 41 minute and 10 second advantage over Barreda. Lopez is third overall – 53 minutes and 41 seconds behind Coma with Viladoms fourth at a deficit of almost 59 minutes.

“A really, really hard stage,” Barreda said. “I had a problem on the first kilometers at the start with the fuel system. I lost about 20 minutes there, but after that I could start again and I got back some time. Finally, after some difficult navigation I arrived at the finish of the special behind Marc [Coma], but the problem was that I had to go back for a way point and I had problems with the fuel again. I lost a lot of time trying to repair this problem. It’s okay because I’m here at the finish and many rivals also had problems. So the race continues and it’s important that we try to do a good job on the next days.”

Sherco’s Alain Duclos is fifth overall with Pain the top Yamaha – one hour and 12 minutes behind Coma. His teammate and defending Dakar champion Despres now trails by an hour and 23 minutes.

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.