Cyril Despres, already a winner in San Juan on the Dakar's last visit in 2010, won yesterday’s stage, taking advantage of a major navigational error by Coma to take the lead in the general standings.
Despres took command of the general standings and won the day's stage by remaining calm and collected. In terms of performance, his confrontation with Marc Coma for a long time seemed like a game of ping-pong: advantage to the Frenchman by 20 seconds at CP1, then to the Spaniard by 14 seconds after 117 km.
The likelihood of a slender victory for one rider or the other seemed to grow as the stage went on.
However, Dakar is never easy and at the junction between the routes dedicated to the bikes/quads and the cars/trucks, after 164 kilometres of racing, Coma made the wrong choice and followed the car/truck route for more than four kilometres. Despite his efforts to try and make up for this lost time, his about-turn cost him 13 minutes at the finishing line. On completion of this 27th special stage victory, Cyril Despres now finds himself leading the rally with an advantage of 10'12” over his biggest rival.
The challengers to Coma and Despres once again had to admit that there is a chasm separating them from the two men. In the end, Frans Verhoeven picked up second place on the day's special. The performance was encouraging for the new Sherco that he is riding, but the Dutchman still came in 8'37” behind Despres, whilst Paulo Gonçalves took only two seconds more. More importantly, the lesson about being calm and collected, two essential qualities on the Dakar, was a tough one for two pretenders to the podium, who will be leaving the rally by the back door; or rather by his assistance truck for Jakub Przygonsky, whose engine blew after 68 km, and by the medical helicopter for Quinn Cody, who broke his collar bone following a spectacular fall after 173 km of the special stage.
In the overall rankings, Stan Watt sits 46th on the Crescent KTM, Jago Pickering is 144th and Tobias Younger is 150th.