The topsy-turvy standings atop the Dakar Rally have changed again today with Red Bull KTM's Marc Coma taking the stage 12 victory over the man he continues to trade punches with - Cyril Despres. Coma topped Despres by three minutes and 57 seconds in today stage, which was shorted by some 31 miles, as some of the stage was deemed unrideable because of heavy rainfall.
The victory puts Coma atop the overall standings again - but he's just a minute and 35 seconds ahead of Despres as the rally enters its 13th of 17 stages tomorrow.
Todays' stage was the second day in Peru for the Dakar field, with the stage taking them from Camana to the sand dunes of Nazca.
"It was a difficult day," Coma said. "I set off four minutes after Cyril and I managed to catch up with him. For the entire first part of the special I mainly focused on navigation, because there was absolutely no room for mistakes. After that, I knew that there would be good opportunities to attack in the second part and that's where I managed to regain ground on Cyril. It's no way near over, because there's another big stage tomorrow.
While Coma won the stage, Despres slipped to fourth on the day. Second place went to Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain's Joan Barreda, the young Spaniard continuing to shine after winning stage 10 and finshing fifth in stage 11. Barreda has climbed to 10th in the overall standings.
"It was a magnificent stage, one of the finest specials that I've ridden on the Dakar over the last few years," Despres said. "In sporting terms, I expected that Marc was going to catch up with me and that it wouldn't be a good day. But it was majestic. I don't have any regrets, because I attacked throughout the first part. You have to go for broke on this Dakar; it's not a race where you can play the waiting game. Against Marc Coma, I'm doing battle with an excellent rider. He's quick and clever. So, I try and find the right pace. Apparently, there are riders in between us, so that's good news for the start tomorrow."
KTM's Jordi Viladoms also squeezed himself between Coma and Despres, the Spaniard finishing the stage in third place - 47 seconds ahead of Despres. Viladoms is fourth overall with an outside chance of catching third-placed Helder Rodrigues. The Yamaha-mounted Rodrigues, however, would have to falter for that to happen as he leads Viladoms by some 27 minutes.
Rodrigues was seventh in today's stage.
Fifth overall after stage 12 is held by Stefan Svitko, the Slovakian losing fourth to Viladoms today after slipping to eighth in the stage.