Despres still in overall lead at half way mark
Cyril Despres and Marc Coma on Friday showed rally enthusiasts why they are the best in the world when they finished 1-2 after a grueling 600km special in the deserts of Chile in the seventh stage of the Dakar 2010 with just 29 seconds separating them.
The KTM riders finished the over seven hours ride over a whole range of challenging terrains in triumph ahead of a well earned rest day as competitors reach the half way mark of this motor sports classic. The French-born Despres has consolidated his overall lead to one hour 6 minutes 50 seconds but his arch rival Coma, who won the event last year, has made inroads into his time deficit vaulting up the order to now be second overall.
Coma now in second overall after longest stage on Friday
Skill and experience pay off for Despres and Coma
Both Despres and Coma slipped back in the order in the first part of the stage which started over tricky and vast sand dunes but the Dakar veterans showed their experience, skill and supremacy over the last 150 km to finish with an exciting two way battle for the final 20 km. It was Despres, hungry for another overall Dakar win who took the glory to win what was his 22nd Dakar stage victory, and he did it with a damaged shock absorber.
Hard day's ride for Despres
Despres said the 600 km, 7.5 hour ride had been very hard and exhausting. "I went into a large ditch at the 150 km mark and exploded the hydraulics of my shock absorber. Since then I was riding on a on a spring. I took all the shocks in my arms, wrists and neck, which in the end was almost unbearable," he told organizers. He said the gap between himself and Coma, the 2009 winner was small and he was now looking forward to the rest day. "I knew I could count on my tires and the bike didn't suffer despite the loss of hydraulics. I will have to look at all the screws and bolts but the bike took me here and that's good."
Vast dunes part of the challenge of the Chilean terrain
Coma too said it had been a long day and he was pleased and satisfied that he had made it safely through to the rest day and he and his support team will be able to tend to the bike tomorrow. "Today, I had to be mindful of the speed to save my tires," he said.
Both Despres and Coma, the world's top riders are onboard KTM 690 machines but because of new regulations for the Dakar have to ride with air restrictors on their bikes to cut the performance down to the equivalent of 450 cc machines. they are both competing as KTM-supported riders in the 2010 edition of the race. Friday's stage, the longest of the rally also offered some of the toughest terrain.
Stage Seven Results
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM (at 29 seconds)
3. David Fretegne, France, Yamaha
4. Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM
5. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
Overall standings after Stage Seven
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM (at 1:06.50)
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
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