Frenchman Cyril Despres dreams of winning his fifth Dakar in eight years became a reality when the factory KTM rider secured victory in Santiago today. The 38 year old finished 14th position on the delayed final stage, but after losing only 3m58s to stage winner Francisco Lopez he did enough to secure the victory.
Even without long time rival Marc Coma competing in this year’s Dakar it’s still been a tough and testing race for Despres. The first eight stages were plagued with uncharacteristic navigational errors and a chronic gearbox problem which meant he had to change his engine himself on the marathon stage of the event.
But in the second half of the race, Despres upped the pace, won stage nine and through consistency and calculated riding he soon gained control of the 14 day race. By stage ten, he was firmly in control and with a wealth of experience never faltered to capture title number five.
Despres said: “No-one can take this win from me anymore. I went for it, with all the surprises a Dakar can throw at you: little navigational mistakes, perhaps fewer than the others, looking after my motorcycle and a good team. In the end, I've got a good reason to be very happy. The day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won't be interesting any more. And this day is still far away!
“It's too long, it's too tough, it's too hot, it's too cold, you've got to rise early in the morning, you've got to find your way out of the dune mazes in Peru and Chile, you've got to tackle the stones and cactuses on the courses near Córdoba... It's just too tricky for it to be easy to win. And it's even better when you win a difficult race. I'm always focused on what I have to do: I think too much about this race to be impressed. We're up against a grueling element, the desert. Then there are the stones, the Andes... and we experience them. It's as real as it gets.”
Second place went to Despres’ popular team-mate Ruben Faria who rode brilliantly on the final day to secure his first stage win of this year’s race. His second place podium position marks his best ever result in the Dakar.
He said: “Yesterday I lost second place and I thought that just being on the podium was great for me, Cyril Despres' lieutenant. It could never happen, it's inconceivable. Chaleco changed his engine, so I thought there were few kilometres left and I was going to defend my place. I fell within the last ten kilometres as I was riding in Pozzolito's dust. Nothing serious. I'm over the moon.”
The final podium place was secured by Francisco Lopez after a brave challenge during the final stage of the race. The five time stage winner in 2013 was just 18m 48s off the win after being hit with a 15m time penalty for changing his engine last night.
He said: “I had a problem with my gearbox yesterday and had to change my engine. Unfortunately, I was second in the overall classification. But making it to Santiago was more important than chasing an impossible second place. I'm happy because I won yesterday's stage. I went the whole nine yards every single day. With four stage wins under my belt and a podium spot, I'm happy for myself, for everyone, for Chile, for my family, for my wife. Changing the engine was the right decision. If I hadn't, I'd still be on the course. Now, this third place counts more than a second place. Especially after what happened last year and the terrible accident. It's just like winning the Dakar."
The top five places were filled by KTM riders thanks to Ivan Jakes and Juan Pedrero. The first non KTM rider was former leader Olivier Pain onboard the Yamaha Racing France YZF Rally.
For five pages of Dakar insight see MCN out Wednesday 23rd January.
Results Stage Fourteen – final stage
La Serena to Santiago: total distance 630 km, timed special 128 km
1, Ruben Faria, Portugal KTM 1 hour 43.06
2, Joan Barreda, Spain, Husqvarna at 0.08
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Honda at 0.24
4, Mario Patrao, Portugal, Suzuki at 1.21
5, Olivier Pain, France, Yamaha at 2.14
Final results after 14 stages and over 8,000 km from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile
1, Despres KTM
2, Faria KTM at 10.43
3, Chaleco Lopez, KTM at 18.48
4, Ivan Jakes, KTM at 23.54
5, Joan Pedrero, KTM at 55.29