Marc Coma took a step closer to clinching his third Dakar victory with a stunning performance on a wet and muddy stage 12 of the event. The Spanish rider who had a 15m 59s lead going into the stage initially lost time to the hard charging Cyril Despres, but at the end of the day mounted a heroic challenge to win out by just 37s after 6h 42m 42 seconds of riding.
Despres secured second place and was philosophical in defeat.
He said: "At least it's good to not have any regrets. I gave it everything I had and it was a long day. It must have rained a lot last night because the tracks were churned up with lots of mud. It was hellish. My chances are looking slimmer though. After a day like that with 555 km to cover and opportunities to open up gaps, we more or less cancelled each other out. Mind you, it's not the end of the world, you know, you have to keep things in perspective".
Yamaha mounted Helder Rodriguez secured an impressive third place, 7m 21s behind Coma, with factory Aprilia rider Francisco Lopez in third 10.03 off the lead.
He said: “It was a very hard stage, not only by the amount of km, but also for the difficulties of the mud on the track. Last year, these stages were fast, and this year they are very technical. Anyways, it is not worth to risk anything now; the third place on the podium is ok for me.”
The final stage of the 2011 Dakar will run from Cordoba to Buenos Aires with a 645 km link and 181 km special, which finishes at the Baradero race track in the Argentinean capital.