KTM factory-supported riders and former Dakar Rally winners Cyril Despres and Marc Coma rode a confident first stage in the grueling Dakar Rally which took contestants from Colon to Cordoba in Argentina, the first timed section in the 9000 km rally.
Finishing second and third in a tightly grouped trio behind David Casteu, Despres and Coma were just three and 12 seconds behind the leader and now have the advantage that Casteu must now navigate out in the lead in tomorrow’s stage.
“Our riders rode a steady race today and had no major problems on a very technical stage that was made to measure for the 450 cc bikes. Marc and Cyril took time to find their rhythm and to get to know and understand the road book. They are in a very good position and tomorrow they’ll be able to hit the gas,” said KTM’s Stefan Huber, who is traveling with the factory-supported riders.
Some distance was trimmed from the first timed stage because of water on the course, an adjustment that resulted in a later start than was originally planned. The bikes rode over a hard pack dirt surface that called for extreme attention and technical skills.
Coma, the winner of the first Dakar held in South America in 2009 said the day had been a good way to get back in business. “It was quite a technical special stage, and it’s a good way to get back to business… In the end the stage was a bit shorter than planned, but seeing how hot it is, it was still quite tough”.
Despres, the 2009 World Rally Champion and 2008 Dakar winner admitted he had been a little nervous on the first day but was still content with his ride. “The time I managed wasn’t too bad, and more importantly, I didn’t have any problems. As for the bike’s speed, I reached 166 kmh, compared to last year when we could get up to 185 kmph. You just have to deal with it. We can’t make up time on the others for the moment, but we’ll claw it back later”.
Both Coma and Despres are riding with air restrictors fitted to their KTM 690 Rally bikes to conform to the new Dakar regulation to limit the engine size to 450 cc. But as two former Dakar winners and as dominators of the rally scene, they still can call on an enormous reserve of experience and skill which will serve them well as the rally continues through Argentina and Chile.
Stage One Results
1. David Casteu, France, Sherco
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM at 3 seconds
3. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 12 seconds
4. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM at 1’45
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia at 2’42