On the last major sandy special on the Dakar 2014, Cyril Despres once again dominated and picked up his second special stage victory of the year, ahead of Marc Coma.

The leader of the general standings is still in full control and all the more comfortable since his closest pursuer Joan Barreda experienced serious mechanical problems. In the car race, following yesterday’s team orders, the day witnessed a shift in power between Roma and Peterhansel! At the finishing line, ‘Peter’ was the day’s winner and took command in the general standings… by just 26 seconds!

Results Stage 12 (unofficial) – 
El Salvador to La Serena 349 km liaison, 350 km special = 699 km

1. Cyril Despres (FRA, Yamaha) 03:58:18
2. Marc Coma (ESP, KTM) +00:02:17
3. Olivier Pain (FRA, Yamaha) +00:05:53
4. Helder Rodrigues (PRT, Honda) +00:07:21
5. Jordi Viladoms (ESP, KTM) +00:09:10
6. Daniel Gouet (CHL, Honda) +00:09:52
7. Jakub Przygonski (POL, KTM) +00:10:45
8. David Casteu (FRA, KTM) +00:11:03
9. Ivan Jakes (SVK, KTM) +00:12:04
10. Javier Pizzolito (ARG, Honda) +00:12:49

Provisional overall standings:
1. Marc Coma (ESP, KTM) 52:40:16 hrs
2. Jordi Viladoms (ESP, KTM) +01:59:49
3. Olivier Pain (FRA, Yamaha) +02:10:16
4. Cyril Despres (FRA, Yamaha) +02:14:01
5. Helder Rodrigues (PRT, Honda) +02:20:39
6. Jakub Przygonski (POL, KTM) +02:27:23
7. Daniel Gouet (CHL, Honda) +03:17:10
8. Stefan Svitko (SVK, KTM) +03:52:55
9. David Casteu (FRA, KTM) +04:01:42
10. Ivan Jakes (SVK, KTM) +04:22:23

Despres won again, Coma controlled and Barreda fell apart on 350 km against the clock which finished in the dunes of Copiapo, as part of a 699-km stage between El Salvador and La Serena served up for the competitors as the penultimate stage of the Dakar 2014.

The day was won in the style of a past-master by Cyril Despres, claiming his second triumph in 2014 and his 33rd on the Dakar! Second to start this morning behind Marc Coma, the title holder quickly caught up with the Catalan and overtook him to open the way, followed by the current general standings leader, riding to protect his advantage at the end of the rally.

Behind them, the day’s big loser was Joan Barreda, second in the general standings on departure from El Salvador this morning. Following electrical problems on his Honda, the Catalan had to stop several times from the 265-km point onwards and crossed the finishing line on foot, 2:29’35 after Despres! His misfortunes smiled on Olivier Pain, the third quickest today, 5’57’ behind the stage winner, but also Helder Rodrigues, fourth to finish, 7’21” behind Despres, and Jordi Viladoms, fifth placed 9’10” behind the day’s fastest man.

In the general standings, Marc Coma, who received a fifteen minute time penalty yesterday evening after changing his engine, takes a decisive advantage for victory with a lead that now stands at 1:59’49” over none other than his water carrier Jordi Viladoms. The second ranked Catalan will nevertheless have to be careful on the final stage, since he only has a lead of 10’27” over the first Yamaha ridden by Olivier Pain, who is in turn a short 3’45” in front of his team-leader, Cyril Despres, who could still finish on the podium in Valparaiso.

Cyril Despres won stage 12
Cyril Despres won stage 12

In the quad race, despite yesterday’s long stage and the soreness he was suffering in his hands and wrists, Ignacio Casale again demonstrated his supremacy by winning the day’s special in front of one of the category’s other leading lights, Dutchman Sebastian Husseini, who finished 5’05” behind the young Chilean. In the general standings, the day before the last special, Casale reinforces his status as successor to Marcos Patronelli since Rafal Sonik lost twenty minutes to find himself in second position 1:23’42 behind Casale, whilst Husseini again lost time, but is still solidly installed on the third step of the provisional podium, more than 5 hours behind the general standings leader.

KTM Report

Red Bull KTM Factory rider Marc Coma moved one step closer to securing his fourth Dakar title on Friday when he finished second in the penultimate stage of this motorsports epic two minutes 17 behind rival Cyril Despres.

Coma now leads the overall standings by one hour 59.49, even allowing for a 15-minute penalty when the team decided to change out his engine overnight.

Coma: “Today was a very long stage, 350 km. We finished in the Copiapo dunes. This means it is always tough, difficult and not easy for navigating. From the past we know that normally this stage is decisive. So now I’m here, I’m happy of course. We stayed together with Cyril all day and we arrived at the end without any big problems. Of course, there are always some small mistakes and we had to find the way point.”

Friday’s stage was not without its drama with the two leaders having to double back to find a way point within sight of the finish line and even more significantly, with Joan Barreda, who occupied second overall after Stage 11 experiencing mechanical issues half way through the timed special.

Barreda finally finished at sixty-third in the stage and dropped down to seventh overall to trail Coma by three hours 17.10 only to have his second place inherited by Coma’s factory teammate Jordi Viladoms.

Viladoms finished fifth on Friday, nine minutes behind the leader and has a 10-minute advantage over Frenchman Olivier Pain, who is now third. Powering in behind Pain is Despres who will also be challenging for a podium on the final stage.

With the finish in his virtual sights, Coma underlined that there was still 150 km to the finish in Valparaiso and said that he was trying to stay focused.

The two KTM-supported riders Kuba Przygonski of Poland and South African Riaan van Niekerk both arrived safely at the bivouac in seventh and eleventh place in the stage. Kuba is currently sixth overall and Riaan is now eleventh

Riders started the stage at high altitude over El Salvador to avoid the Camanchaca, the morning mist coming in from the Pacific Ocean that has in the past delayed the start of the stage. Much of their ride was in the sand, especially in a big series of dunes at the end of the day.

There is still another 535 km to the finish line at Valparaiso, including the last test for this year, another 157 km of timed special. The final dash to the finish demands riders climb hills planted with cacti so organizers warn they need to be wary of not coming to a prickly end.

HRC Report

It was a troublesome stage for TEAM HRC in Copiapo, where Helder Rodrigues finished fourth and Javier Pizzolito tenth, on a day which Joan Barreda’s chances of taking a podium place in Valparaiso ended.

The penultimate day of the Rally Dakar was played out first over rocky terrain before reaching a 150 km stretch of dunas outside Copiapó. Towering dunes in which one had to pay strict attention to the navigation.

Portuguese rider Hélder Rodrigues rode into Copiapó aboard his Honda CRF450 RALLY in fourth place. ‘Estrelinha’ now lies in fifth overall place just ten minutes away from a final place on the podium. Rodrigues will battle it out every inch of the way before the race winds up in Valparaíso tomorrow.

Javier Pizzolito put in a good performance in the stage, with a tenth final place some 12’49” off the eventual winner.

Joan Barreda, after marking a strong rhythm in the first part of the race, arrived at the refuelling in second place. He crashes in the kilometre 264 of the special in the area of sand dunes around Copiapo. He was forced to repair the damage and, subsequently, was unable to continue at full-speed. The Spanish rider fought on to stay in the race and finish the special. Now, he moves to the seventh place in the overall.

Once again the commendable effort of the female member of Honda Argentina Rally Team, Laia Sanz, should be pointed out, finishing the penultimate stage in twelfth place, and thus scaling various positions on the overall leader-board. The Catalan rider is now in 14th. Pablo Gonzalez finished the day in 24th position.

Helder Rodrigues 4th +07’21 TEAM HRC
“I rode a good stage and I felt comfortable. I saw Joan after his fall and asked him if he needed any help. He told me that it wasn’t necessary, so I carried on. It was a real shame that we was unable to carry on with the bike damaged, and needed the help of another rider to finish the special.”

TOMORROW’S STAGE – Saturday, January 18 – Stage 13: La Serena – Valparaíso – Liasion: 378 km Special: 157 km Total: 535 km

Before admiring the hillsides brought to life by the houses in Valparaiso, the competitors will have to climb the hills planted with cacti during the rally’s last special stage. The pride and joy of crossing the finish line is drawing closer, but the statistics are formal: every year one or several drivers come unstuck during this final exercise so prudence is required! Even this close to the finish, vigilance is the competitors’ best ally to ensure their presence on the final podium.

TOMORROW'S STAGE - Saturday, January 18 - Stage 13: La Serena – Valparaíso - Liasion: 378 km Special: 157 km Total: 535 km
TOMORROW’S STAGE – Saturday, January 18 – Stage 13: La Serena – Valparaíso – Liasion: 378 km Special: 157 km Total: 535 km