Following his nightmare on stage eight of the race where he got bogged down in mud, Cyril Despres bounced back in spectacular fashion on stage nine of the event.
The Frenchman led throughout the mammoth 566km special stage, but was ultimately classified in second position after incurring a 15minute time penalty for changing the engine on his Factory KTM.
He said: “It's feeling good. After a difficult day yesterday when you start to doubt, I had to get back to winning ways. It wasn't easy to psyche myself up for it, but I'm very happy with my day's work. We came into this looking at a battle for seconds or minutes. It's very competitive. Like any top level sportsman, if you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounces of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight. But, as for me, I'm up for it.”
Rival, team-mate and former leader of the race Marc Coma, finished the stage in second position on the road but was classified in sixth place after he too incurred a 15 minute penalty for changing his engine.
In the overall standings Despres now leads Coma by 2m 28s.
Coma said: “We knew that this would be difficult today. It was a long special and there was plenty of navigation to deal with. We’re not coming to the crunch part of the rally. Cyril is a major rival and we do battle over every single kilometer. But I think it’s interesting, its sport.”
The winner of the stage was Yamaha man Helder Rodrigues who capitalised on the factory KTM riders time penalties. The Portuguese star is yet to change the engine of his WRF450 and sits third in the overall standings 44m 19s behind Despres.
Stan Watt secured 41st on the stage and is now 41st in the overall standings onboard his Crescent KTM.
Brit Tobias Younger put in another solid performance to finish stage nine of the Dakar. Riding his Desert Rose Racing KTM the 38 year old currently holds 105th place in the overall standings.
Results Stage 9
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM 5 hours 4 minutes 33 seconds
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 3 minutes 54 seconds
3, Joan Barreda Bort, Spain, Husqvarna at 8:44
4, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 11:44
5, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 15:12
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, 28 hours 30 minutes 17 seconds
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 2 minutes 28
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 59:19
4, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 1:25:57
5, Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM at 1:28:43