Dakar 2010: A Triumph for Cyril Despres and KTM

Photography by J. Van Oers

KTM-supported rider French-born Cyril Despres on Saturday sealed victory in the 2010 Dakar Rally after 9000 km across Argentina and Chile. He rode in triumph into Buenos Aires to complete his third Dakar victory and the tenth consecutive victory for KTM, the Austrian-made sports motorcycles.

Despres, who completed the final stage, a total ride of 707 km with a timed special of 206 km of fast track riding to finish the stage in a comfortable eighth place. He was five minutes 05 seconds behind the winner of the day, rather fittingly, his KTM support rider Rubin Faria of Portugal. Despres, who also won in 2005 and 2007 when the rally was staged across Africa, was one hour 02' 52" minutes in front after completing the immense distance and endless challenging terrain, including four stages in Chile's Atacama Desert.

An emotional Despres
"All victories are nice but this one is particularly beautiful," he said. "It is the victory of hard work, of expertise and of an incredible team. There are nine of us in the team and not one of us ever let go. We all wanted to win; we all wanted to fight hard and we won. It's just fantastic. Of course there is a lot of emotion." Despres whose racing career has had its setbacks, injuries and a constant battle with his arch rival, fellow KTM rider Marc Coma of Spain said he was genuinely moved by the victory. "I am human," he said "I know I have been riding this bike for 15 days and I am exhausted but the little strength I had left just went in tears. KTM played a big part in this victory. They trusted us. We chose everyone. We have been working 24/7 for months. One thing is clear; I was not afraid of losing. I just wanted to win. And this will to win was stronger than the fear of losing. It was a tough Dakar, a beautiful Dakar and I am so glad I won."

Ullevalseter second overall on KTM
Second place overall went to KTM rider Pal Ullevalseter of Norway, who completed his eighth Dakar rally and finally succeeded in winning his first stage on Friday. "To finish second in the standings is more than I expected. I had dreamed of it and there it is. On this Dakar, I only had good times. No problems, no crash. The bike worked well. I may not be the fastest rider but I am experienced. I know how to navigate, I know the technique and I am much more relaxed. With my first stage victory yesterday, I have lived so many things in two days. It's great times. The party is on for weeks to come now. I've been training for this moment for 25 years!" Third place went to Yamaha rider Helder Rodrigues of Portugal. Six of the top ten finishers were KTM riders.

Four stage victories for Coma
Marc Coma, Despres' eternal rival in the KTM camp, finally finished in 15th place after penalties put him out of contention. But he still had four stage wins to his credit and, penalties aside, his actual riding time was remarkable close to that of Despres, proof enough that the two KTM riders are in a class of their own in international rally competition. The result was all the more remarkable because both Despres and Coma had to ride with air restrictors on their KTM 690 rally machines, to reduce the performance down to the level of a 450 cc bike, since the middle of 2010, the new standard for racing the Dakar.

KTM continues its domination of the world's greatest rally
The 2010 was yet another triumph for KTM, the Austria manufacturer whose sports machines play such a dominant role in international offroad competition. KTM first won the Dakar Rally in 2001 and has been undefeated ever since. Six of those victories have come with either Despres or Coma at the handlebars and each has now won three Dakar titles.

Stage 14
1. Rubin Faria, Portugal KTM
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Alan Duclos France, KTM
5. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
6. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 5'05")
8. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Final Standings after Stage 14
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (2010 winner)
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM (at 1:02'52")
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, (at 1:08.34)
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
15. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Images J. van Oers

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