Dakar Stage 5 – Coma wins stage to take overall lead as rivals falter

By Michael Guy -

Off road

 10 January 2014 09:57

Chilkecito to Tucaman, Argentina 728km including shortened 211km timed Special Stage

Marc Coma overcame a split fuel tank midway through the day to win stage five of the 2014 Dakar. The 37 year old Spaniard was the quickest man heading in to the first check point and despite his technical problems that cost him time in the second part of the stage he won by 12.54s from team-mate Jordi Viladoms, but significantly took time out of his main race rivals.

The factory KTM man now leads the overall standings by 41m 10s with five of the 13 stages complete.

He said: “It was another tough day. It was really hot out there. It's also difficult in terms of navigation as well because of the rain last week which makes it difficult to see anything. To get to the end of the stage, I rode for 10 km lost in a river bed. In general, it's tough for everyone. For the race lead, you can lose lots of time at any moment. When you open the way, it's a bit like playing Russian roulette.”

Viladoms, who was drafted into the factory KTM team following the tragic death of Kurt Casseli secured his best stage result of the race to finish second and now holds fourth in the overall standings.

He said: “It was a difficult stage. Physically, but the navigation was difficult, with two difficult points. The first one, after the off-track part, to find the way point was not easy. Then at the finish of the stage in the river it was very difficult and everybody was lost. I got lost also but not so much so I'm happy because I rode a good stage.”

Helder Rodgrigues salvaged third position for what was a disatrous day for the factory HRC team. The Portugese rider who has been surprisingly off the pace during the opening four stages of the race excelled in the tough stage to take a podium finish.

He said: “Another day at a really long and really tough Dakar. It’s the fifth day of the hardest Dakar yet. Even though it’s only the fifth day, it’s been really difficult. The Dakar is so long and you have to keep up the concentration and be really strong to make it through the day and get a result.

Fellow Honda man Joan Barreda’s run at the front of the Dakar came to an end on stage five when fuelling problems robbed him of precious time which saw him finish 13th on the day and drop to second in the overall standings.

Barreda said: “A really, really hard stage. I had a problem on the first kilometres at the start with the fuel system. I lost about twenty minutes there, but after that I could start again and I got back some time. Finally, after some difficult navigation I arrived at the finish of the special behind Marc, but the problem was that I had to go back for a way point and I had problems with the fuel again. I lost a lot of time trying to repair this problem. It's ok because I'm here at the finish and many rivals also had problems. So the race continues and it's important that we try to do a good job on the next days.”

It was also another disastrous day for five time champion Cyril Despres who like the majority of his rivals had navigational problem along with technical ones. With five stages complete, Despres aspirations of title number six appear ever distant with the Frenchman now 2h 23m 01s behind race leader Coma.

He said: "It was very hot in the special and the sand was soft. Because of that I was paying particular attention to engine temperature and even more so when I noticed I was consuming fuel at an alarming rate. I was on my way to get the famous WP17 but had to turn back when I realised I wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end. I was right on the limit of running out when I came across a quad rider who kindly gave me a litre and a half. In all, my various problems cost me 44 minutes, to which will be added the one hour penalty…"

The 2013 FIM World Cross Country champion Paolo Gonvalves literally saw his Dakar hope go up in smoke, when his priceless HRC factory CRF450 Rally caught fire and burned out completely.

“After having lost my chances to fight for a top position following the problems during the marathon stage, I tried my best today to support Joan Barreda. I had a good pace, leading the race halfway through the stage. In the boiling temperatures I suddenly felt my feet getting hot, and I saw that my bike was burning. I jumped off and tried to extinguish the fire with sand, but I could not fight it, the bike burnt down completely. I am extremely disappointed, after all the hard work during the year to be out of the race in this way."

Sole Brit Mark Jay continued to impress by finishing another stage that saw many of his fellow competitors retire. Jay currently holds 89th place from 91 riders left in the race. 174 riders started the Dakar on Sunday.