Dakar - Motorbikes - Leg 13
Cyril Després led from one end to the other of today's stage, taking his fourth win on this event. The Frenchman might have some regrets after a bad start to the race due to tyre problems, but he has put all his energy into gaining lost ground
despite Marc Coma's unrelenting hold at the front.
Only a mechanical problem for the Spaniard could even out the odds, but at the conclusion of this penultimate stage it seems tomorrow's conclusion can be easily predicted – although it's never over until it's over, as any race enthusiast knows...
At the start in La Rioja, the gap between Coma and Després stood at 1hr 29min, and that gap was only reduced by a minute today.
"Of course, when you are behind, you want just one thing: race it to try and catch up on the time lost for good," said Després. "But today, the weather made it impossible to race the first part of the special stage. It's a pity but that's also the race!"
Marc Coma can now allow himself to dream of entering Buenos Aires as the biker category winner. Running behind Després, he simply copied his rival's pace and surely intends to do the same on Saturday right until the last metre of the Dakar Rally is covered.
The KTM racer has dominated the event so far. After gaining ground on his disorganised rivals during the first week, Coma has been managing his advantage since leaving Valparaiso.
"Tomorrow will be a long stage," warned Coma. "In the previous Dakars, we were used to a short final stage around Lake Rose. Here, we have 220 kilometres of special stage. That's a lot and a lot can happen too."
As for overall third-placed David Frétigné, he now finds himself six minutes down from second-placed Després. That means he will be putting everything into Saturday's final stretch while his target attempts to protect his position in the standings.
"I am really happy to be out of this special stage because I did not expect it to be so fast. There were a number of traps, small narrow turns," reported Frétigné. "I quickly saw that I could not do much so I tried to race well, attacking in order not to lose too much time."
There was bad luck for Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez during Friday's run, as he saw his KTM's engine fail.
Coma, Després and Frétigné are all hoping their engines will remain reliable, at least for another day...