Antofagasta to El Salvador, Chile – 749km including 605km timed Special Stage
Marc Coma stamped his authority on the 2014 Dakar with a brilliant stage win today to extend his overall lead in the standings. The factory KTM rider dominated what was regarded as the toughest day of this year’s event to win by 2m 51s from his long time rival Cyril Despres. But more significantly than his margin over Despres was the fact that his closest rival in the overall standings, Jon Barreda finished down in fifth 8m 12s behind.
Coma’s victory means that he now leads the race by 52m 36s with just two stages of the torturous rally remaining.
Coma said: “It was a very long day. I had a little fall at the start, but it wasn't serious. After that, I tried to maintain a good pace. The important thing is still being here in the race and also to be careful, because there is still one tough day left.”
Five time champion Cyril Despres continued to impress with another strong day – finishing in second place at the end of the grueling 605km timed Special Stage. The Frenchman remains focused on securing his place on the podium come Saturday and has ridden brilliantly during week two after a catalogue of problems ruled him out of contention during the opening stages. Despres now holds sixth overall and is 24 minutes adrift of current third place man Jordi Viladoms.
Despres said: “Well it was just a long day, a really long day. We came across every type of terrain: Sand dunes, twisty, rocky track sections... It isn't possible to do it without a good physical condition and the Yamaha today worked really perfectly, but also to manage to make a good special like this you need good tyres. I'm just surprised at how we can get to the finish with just this kind of tyre. It's just impossible to understand.”
Olivier Pain is also determined to secure his place on the podium and is currently the top Yamaha rider – one place ahead of Despres in the standings. The Frenchman had a strong day today finishing the stage third and is less than ten minutes ahead of Despres in the overall standings.
He said: “The main thing today was to not lose too much time to Cyril or Helder, who are my main rivals. I also wanted to gain as much as possible on Jordi, to try and aim for 3rd place. A lot can still happen tomorrow. With a fairly small difference in time, you can end up on the podium… or in seventh place, and I don't want to finish in seventh place!”