Dakar Rally : Situation in the bikes category
The battle in the bikes category may have been stolen from all top pilots and might very well become a mini Catalonia Grand Prix with top pilots Marc Coma and Isidre Esteve, two blood brothers however representing two competing
teams of the KTM company.
The title holder, who finished a perfect season by winning the world championship, goes on with the demonstration of his skills right here in the Dakar. The big achievement of the Ouarzazate stage, where he authoritatively took the lead in the overall rankings by winning his second special stage of the year, allowed him to put almost 30km between him and the fastest in the pack, which says a lot about the margin he has. If the lead of 10'47'' he has over Esteve is not overly impressive in absolute terms, the impression of ease Coma is sporting must undoubtedly have a psychological influence on his competitors.
Cyril Despres, announced as his great rival in the beginning of the rally, who is more than ever a disciple of the self-persuasion method, keeps believing the situation can be overturned. The long list of mechanical problems that have been piling up since he left Portugal might be over, and his horizon might finally be clearing up. His good physical shape and the way he had started catching up in the truncated stage to Atar would actually plead his case. But his 45' delay certainly does not. On the side of the Gauloises team, the bikers' trio Esteve-Casteu-Despres is still there in ambush… in case of an improbable weakness of Coma…
A bit further down the ranks, the fight is between 450cc pilots. Chilean Francisco Lopez, who was in pursuit of David Frétigné in the specific ‘small' bikes rankings, benefited from a chain of mechanical problems experienced by the French pilot from Villefranche-de-Rouergue to take the lead before the rest day.
After taking the 7th position in the overall rankings at Atar, his new rival is now Helder Rodrigues, who also won the second Portuguese stage. He is a good minute behind “Chaleco” in the overall rankings.
A special word about the ladies of the female category dominated by Ludivine Puy ranking 50th in the overall rankings. Apart from competing, the ladies also – and more importantly – have a provisional track record of 100% success rate at rest day, with all six of them still in the race. The amateur rankings are led by Helder Rodrigues, whilst the privateers with no assistance rankings are now led by the Czech Martin Macek. In the quad category, Juan Manuel Gonzalez, nicknamed 'Pedrega', is the leader of the eight quads that still remain in the race.