Photography by KTM Images
So much for Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma taking it easy and nursing his huge overall lead in the Dakar Rally.
Today the five-time winner put it all out there to win the ninth stage of the rally as he ran down early leader Joan Barreda and then beat the factory Honda rider to the finish by a minute and 41 seconds.
The rally headed north today toward the ocean, but not before the riders had to face the dunes of the Atacama in a stage in which riding in the dunes and navigation was key. The stage measured 261 miles in total, which included an almost two-mile decent toward the Pacific Ocean.
“It was a complicated stage in the Atacama Desert,” Coma said. “Very nice and very fast at the beginning, but on the last part we found some dunes. I tried to catch Joan [Barreda], because he started two minutes in front of me. When I caught up with him I tried to follow to ride together to the end. It was a good day for me.”
Coma now leads the overall standings over Barreda by 40 minutes and 19 seconds.
“It was a very complicated stage,” Barreda said. “I started very quickly, but Marc [Coma] accelerated and caught up with me in the dunes at the end of the stage. I'm happy, because I did the best I can, I really did. There are two very hard days left. I'm going to carry on at the same pace. Tomorrow I'll be opening the way, but I'm happy with the work that I'm doing.”
Third place today went to yesterday’s winner Cyril Despres, the factory Yamaha rider finishing some five and a half minutes behind Coma. The defending Dakar Rally champion is eighth overall, almost two and a half hours behind his rival.
Today’s stage featured four different manufacturers finishing in the top four with Coma’s KTM, Barreda’s Honda, Despres’ Yamaha being joined by the Sherco of Juan Pedrero Garcia, the Spaniard who won the fourth stage of the rally, but ran into problems in stages three and six.