Stage seven of the 2013 Dakar could be pivotal in this year’s epic race after favourite Cyril Despres slumped to 34th on the stage after losing a massive 13m 08s on the relatively short 218km timed special.
Early reports are that Despres has been slowed by a gearbox problem on his factory KTM, which prevented him from using fifth gear on the fast special. He was then forced to stop on the liasision stage before managing to get his KTM running again.Unlike every other stage of the Dakar where the competitors can get full team assistance at the end of the timed special and the bike and rider returns to the bivouac to be maintained – stage seven is the Marathon stage. This means that the riders aren’t allowed any outside assistance and will instead head to a separate bivouac for one night where they will be fed, given a blanket and a hat, but nothing else.
The implications of a technical fault at this stage could be massive because if he is unable to fix it he will have to start tomorrow’s 492km special with the same problem which could result in him losing huge amounts of time.
Despite Despres’ predicament the factory KTM team did have some positive news after Marc Coma’s replacement Kurt Casseli claimed the stage win by 1m 23s. While Casseli played down his the win, it remains an impressive achievement given that 2013 is his first ever
“It's good, I mean, today was easy. It was just roads, there was no off-track or anything – pretty easy to follow. Ruben and I had to stop a little bit for Cyril. I don't know why, he had some problems with something. I waited for him but he told me to keep going, so we've come here and hopefully we can figure it out tonight for the marathon stage. Everything for me was fine. I'm learning the navigation better and I can understand it. This is my first Dakar so I'm just learning a lot. I didn't have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It's fun and I'm enjoying it. The race is great and the people are too. I'm having a good time.”
In the overall standings Yamaha Racing man Olivier Pain has extended his lead at the top of the timesheets to 6m 06s after finishing today’s stage in third place. Francisco Lopez also capitalised on Despres’ misfortune by finishing second on stage to move up into second overall.
Results Stage Seven
Calama to Salta (Argentina) total distance 806 km – liaison of 586 km and 202 km of timed special.
1, Kurt Caselli, USA, KTM 1:51.31
2, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, KTM 1:52.54
3, Olivier Pain, France, Yamaha, 1:52.54
4, Frans Verhoeven, Netherlands, Yamaha, 1:53.01
5, Ruben Faria, Portugal KTM 1.54.01
6, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM, 1:54.13
Overall Standings after Stage Seven
1, Pain, 17:28.17
2, Lopez, 17:34.23
3, Casteu, 17:34.54
4, Faria, KTM 17:37.59
5, Despres, KTM, 17:42.24 (at 14.07)
6, Przygonski, KTM, 17:49.00