Despres takes fourth Dakar victory after battling 8300km
France's Cyril Despres took his fourth Dakar after two weeks of solid racing through South Americas finest. All in all, 97 motorcycles, 12 quads, 78 cars and 60 trucks made it to the finishing line of the 33rd Dakar (249 of the 443 vehicles who started the rally).
Advantage Despres. The demonstration was decided at all levels. After covering 8,300 kilometres on roads, courses and dunes since the start in Mar del Plata, the gap between Marc Coma and Cyril Despres is 53:20. Once again, the extremely close race between the two champions proved that one has to be an all-rounder in order to win a Dakar: physical stamina is important, navigational mistakes were tiny but enough to decide their duel, their piloting was as good as it was fast, strategy played an important role, the mechanical aspect (on identical KTMs) was well-managed... with a disappointment for Marc Coma: on the eve of the finish, a gearbox breakdown prevented him from fighting on at a time when he was leading the general classification. The Catalan was also forced to replace his engine, which gave rise to a 45-minute penalty pursuant to the new rule. This time loss proved fatal, following a two-week battle in which victories were measured in seconds.
Behind Despres and Coma, the riders vying for a podium spot were never in a position to challenge the title contenders. Strong and consistent, Hélder Rodrigues finished the rally in 3rd place, just like last year. He took a stage win but ended up 1hr behind the French champion. He may be able to mount a stronger challenge if he ends up with a Yamaha YZF, which neither David Casteu nor Olivier Pain was able to place at the top of the classification. On the route between Mar del Plata and Lima, those following the motorcycle category discovered that the future of Catalonia no longer rests exclusively on Marc Coma's shoulders. The breakthrough of this year came from Joan Barreda, who lost all chances of shining in the overall classification at the beginning of the rally (11th at the end) but was still able to leave his mark on the race, with a stage win and eight specials in the Top 5.
Italy's Alessandro Boturri was the fastest rookie in the Dakar (8th, 2:59:04 behind Despres), racing for the new team Bordone-Ferrari, which also placed Jordi Viladoms in fourth. The Catalan clan can be happy, with Laia Sanz taking the win in the ladies' category. On the other hand, Stéphane Hamard won the classification of riders participating without assistance.
"I always pay attention to detail. I like doing my homework and, in my job, when things go okay you end up winning! Today we won and it's simply fantastic. This is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I've ever raced in. It was difficult physically, but even more psychologically. Challenging yourself every morning and fighting on the course takes its toll on your mind. It's not like a 42-kilometre marathon; here, you have to earn your place every morning. All victories are beautiful, but this one is special because it came down to the wire and was decided at the last minute. This was an unimaginable scenario, with the leaders separated by mere seconds. I've done 85 or 90 rallies throughout my life, and this one was the one where I had to fight the hardest. Today will leave its mark on me."
"I finished second in what was a difficult rally. I gave it my all every single day. I wish to congratulate Cyril. He's the champion. But I'm going to work hard to try and win again next year. If we keep alternating... it should be my turn! But first I have to work."
"Making it to the end of a Dakar is always terrific. So finishing on the podium is simply incredible. There are two great riders, Marc and Cyril, and they're tough nuts to crack. I lost 20 minutes in stage 4 and 20 more two days later. I was 40 minutes back, so I knew catching up with them would be hard. Winning the Dakar requires perfect preparation all year round and making sure everything goes well during the race. I'll try and find the solution to be as good as they are. I need a bit more of everything, especially money to build a strong structure."