KTM factory rider Marc Coma captured his third Dakar Rally Championship on Saturday, January 15th, riding into Buenos Aires after a challenging 16-day race across Argentina and Chile, crossing the Andes and spending many days in the Atacama Desert.
It was also a triumphant debut for the Australian KTM 450 rally bike that captured the 10th consecutive prize for KTM Motorsports. The engineers coupled the single-cylinder 4-stroke engine with a 5-speed gearbox. It has a dry weight of 330 lbs and features a 9.2 gallon fuel tank that straddles the frame. Cost: $41,200. The KTM brand has become synonymous with offroad racing and in particular the most challenging of annual rallies, The Dakar.
Fellow KTM factory rider Cyril Despres, the title holder going into the Dakar, fought the good fight right up until the finish, was second overall. He trailed Coma by just over 15 minutes after 9600 km of competitive riding over the most challenging terrain possible. Considering that Despres incurred a 10-minute penalty in the early part of the race, he and Coma rode on equal terms throughout the 13 stages and frequently finished only minutes apart. Indeed in the penultimate stage there was only 37 second separating the two riders at the end of the day. Between them Coma and Despres took victory in eight of the 13 stages – Coma won five stages and Despres won three.
Coma was a worthy overall winner of the 33rd edition of the race that took competitors in a huge sweep through Argentina, across the Andes at 4500 m altitude into northern Chile and up to the border with Peru, over a number of stages in the notoriously dry Atacama Desert, back across the Andes and through Argentina to the finish in the capital. It was his job on Saturday to open the road on what was a comparatively short stage and all he had to do was to keep Despres under control till they got to Buenos Aires. Coma first took control of the overall standings after Stage 4 and remained in front for the remainder of the rally. He conceded 1'30 to Despres in the final stage but the title was well and truly wrapped up.
Marc Coma: "Many sacrifices to get to here"
"Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win. What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough stsge was ending, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days. It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years."
Despres, a fight to the end
At the end of Stage 13 Cyril Despres, the consummate perfectionist said he was sad he had not done better. “I made some mistakes, they were two small mistakes but they held some heavy consequences,” he said. “This special is different if you are in first place as it was the case last year... then you want the race to be shorter. When you are second, you would want the race to be longer. But anyway, the feeling of finishing a Dakar is always nice especially here with all the people welcoming you. I am sad I could not do better. I have raced 11 Dakar, won three and been on the podium eight times. One more would have been great. But I just could not make any better.”
Good finish for KTM’s two factory co-riders
Another great result also came from the two co-riders to the leading KTM factory riders. Juan Pedrero of Spain, the water carrier for Coma, finished overall fifth and Ruben Faria who served the same function for Despres was seventh overall. The domination of the brand is further underlined by the fact that nine of the top 11 riders were on the Austrian-made bikes.
With today’s victory, Coma draws equal with fellow KTM factory rider Cyril Despres as they now have three titles each and have together dominated rally sport in recent years.
KTM congratulates all KTM riders who were courageous enough to tackle the Dakar, the rally that is at the very heart of this great sport.
Stage 13 Results
1, Frans Verhoeven, Belgium, BMW
2, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 00:05
3, Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 26:04 at 00:05
4, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 00:44
5, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 2:16
6, Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM, 2:47
7, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:05
8, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM 3:51
9, Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM, 4:38
10, Miran Stanovnik, Slovenia, KTM, 5:16
11. Teus Visser, Netherland, KTM 5:48
15, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 8:34
Final Overall Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 15:04
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 1:40:20
4, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia,
5, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:07:03
6, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM at 3:32:56
7, Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 3:59:38
8, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 4:13:01
9, Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM at 9:38:41
10, Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM 6:14:46
11, Miran Stanovnik, Slovenia, KTM 6:13:49