KTM factory rider Marc Coma continued his quest to be the first winner in the first Dakar Rally to be held in South America consolidating his overall lead in the standings after Stage Nine.
Tricky navigation today allowed those starting further down the field to catch the front runners – a situation that bought some relatively unknown names into the top 10. It was KTM rider Frans Verhoeven who won the stage after starting at 33rd ahead of David FrÃ©tignÃ© (at 3’09) with local hero Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez third (at 3’40). Coma (Repsol KTM) came home in fourth place trailing the leader by just 4’59 and factory teammate Cyril Despres (Red Bull KTM) was fifth (at 6’03). KTM factory riders, Alain Duclos (Kaestle KTM) was tenth (at 17’18) while Jordi Viladoms was behind him at eleventh (at 18’14).
While stage winners come and go the overall leader board remains remarkably static with Marc Coma managing his lead in imperial style. There was virtually no change in the order after the dunes of Copiapo this evening, with FrÃ©tignÃ© second (at 1h04’38) and Despres third (at 1h34’38).
Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) 4th (at 4’59) and 1st overall
Today was a typical day of rally-raid, the sort you might find in Africa, in fact it reminded me a lot of certain types of terrain in Morocco. Early on we came quite close to the sea and there were tracks everywhere – and it wasn’t easy to find the right one! Me, Chalico (Lopez) and Cyril (Despres) rode much of the day together, occasionally joined by FrÃ©tignÃ©. Overall I’d say it was a hard stage, made harder by tricky navigation. The good news is that my rear mousse performed perfectly.
Cyril Despres (Red Bull KTM) 5th (at 6’03) third overall (at 1h34’38)
I was hoping to take a bit of time off FrÃ©tignÃ© today, but with the navigation quite tricky at times, it proved impossible. Opening the piste I was quite quickly joined by Chaleco (Lopez) and Marc (Coma), and despite my best efforts, was unable to shake them off. Still it was a magnificent special and I really enjoyed myself – a proper day of rally-raid. Congratulations to the organisers for providing us with so much entertainment.
Alain Duclos (Kaestle KTM) 10th (at 17’18) 47th overall at 12h55’28”
I went wrong at about kilometre 90 and lost about 12 minutes in the process. When I got back on the track I found myself in the company of Farres, Viladoms and Casteu all of whom I managed to overtake again to finish in the top 10 as planned. The scenery was absolutely stunning and I think the person who made the road book must have been similar impressed because some of the distances and designs weren’t that precise.
Jordi Viladoms (Repsol KTM) 11th (at 18’14) 5th overall (at 2h08’57)
Up until refuelling I was doing ok. My pace was good so I backed off a little – maybe a bit too much. Contrary to the others I didn’t enjoy the special that much and found it pretty hard going.
A special challenge for Stage Ten
Riders face the rally’s longest and difficult stretch on Stage Ten with a loop that takes them from and back to Copiapo while they continue to tackle the world’s driest desert of Atacama, taking in a 670 km special that climbs to just above 2400 m. Organisers promise veritable mountains of sand, including a series of challenging dunes on the last part of the special. Riders are likely to face extreme temperatures during which reading the condition of the sand will be difficult, even for the top riders. This is the most northern point of the rally in Chile after which the race then heads east and back into Argentina.
Provisional results after ninth stage
1. Frans Verhoeven, Netherlands, KTM
2. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, KTM
4. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
5. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
6. David Casteu, France, KTM
7. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, KTM
8. Felipe Prohens, Chile, Honda
9. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Honda
10. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
Provisional overall standings after Stage Nine
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
3. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
4. Francisco Lopez, Chile, KTM
5. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM
6. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, KTM
7. David Casteu, France, KTM
8. Frans Verhofen, Netherlands, KTM
9. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
10. Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM
47. Alain Duclos, France, KTM