Dakar - Motorbikes - Leg 12
After transfering from Copiapo to Fiambala on Wednesday, when heavy fog saw the stage cancelled, the Dakar Rally got back to business Thursday morning as the contenders raced towards La Riojas, Argentina.
The 518-kilometre distance included
a timed run of 261km, leading the competitors from green mountains to sandy dunes, with a little rain along the way.
Getting back to racing after a day's "rest," the motorbikers' faces seemed less haggard than two days earlier – obviously many put the unexpected time off to good use.
Second overall position in this category is still for the taking between David Frétigné and Cyril Després, the former riding a Yamaha 450, the latter a KTM 690. The day needed to be decisive... at least each hoped it would be. Who would come out on top after crossing over 200 kilometres of dunes?
Although Marc Coma controlled the situation during most of the day, it was Cyril Després who took the stage; as a bonus, he also moved up to second place in the general rankings.
The Frenchman was all smiles this evening when he arrived at the La Rioja bivouac.
"There was action," reported Després. "The bike overheated a little; I was a bit afraid of the sand dunes; it was tough because the sand was so soft.
"For a rally-raid biker, starting, passing two or three other bikers along the way and arriving after four hours of special stage, it's a small pleasure!"
Racing in the sand of Catamarca province, with his tyre issues early on in the rally now left behind, Després has found his style again. Setting adversity aside, he is plowing on with the task at hand and displaying his know-how as well.
The step forward he made today in the standings finds its origin in David Frétigné's oil problems, a situation which cost his rival over 10 minutes.
One would expect to find Frétigné frustrated with the situation, yet it was quite the contrary: "Back in the days when I started enduro again, I chose Yamaha for its reliability. I am happy because today, I still had confirmation of this reliability."
"I had a small issue with my oil pressure release valve just before the pit stop CP and I had no oil left in my engine," he explained. "I reassembled everything and here I am. I think it's a miracle. If I take the oil gauge out, it's dry. There is not a single drop of oil left."
"I have no idea how I made it to the finish," said a somewhat still amazed Frétigné. "I tried to drive fast while listening to my engine, and here I am."
Marc Coma comfortably remains in charge of the motorbike category, with an overall lead of 1:29'48" on second-placed Després, who in turn holds a 4'07" margin on Frétigné.
Coma can afford to manage the race (a luxury he's had for days now), with no need to strain the machinery... or the man. So far his Dakar Rally has been exemplary.
"It was a real tough one, with a lot of off-road and navigation," stated the Spaniard. "There was no way you could let your guard down during the whole special stage. But for me, it was another day without problems and that's important."
Coma is far from falling into the trap of overconfidence as he aims for victory: "As long as the finish line has not been crossed, anything can happen."