Coma Takes Overall Lead in Stage 8 of Dakar 2012

[Despres sacrifices time in mud trap

What a difference a day makes. Stage 8 could very well be a turning point in the 2012 Dakar Rally after Cyril Despres, overall leader at the half way mark got bogged down in mud in the early part of the special, sacrificing around 12 minutes in his efforts to extract himself and handing the overall lead to KTM factory teammate Marc Coma.

It was Coma's twentieth Dakar Stage victory in his career and the fourth in the 2012 edition. Both he and Despres are vying for their fourth Dakar title.

Coma, as winner of Stage Seven opened the road in the morning and even made a small navigation error in the first kilometers. Then the cards were completely reshuffled at the 11-km mark when he managed to avoid a muddy river while Cyril Despres did not. He and Paulo Goncalves got firmly stuck in the hazard and it proved costly in both time and energy.

[Aubert moves up the order

Despres said after the stage that he was waiting on an organizers' decision because after riders started to get bogged down in the mud they created a detour around it. He said it was not marked on the road book because it occurred after the reconnaissance car had competed the inspection two days ago. "I was the first to fall into the trap. There was no way I could have avoided it," he said.

Despres' troubles continued to deepen. He kept losing more time as the stage progressed. At the end of the special he was 17 minutes 20 seconds behind Coma and the leader board was completely reversed. Instead of the Frenchman's seven minutes 48 seconds overall lead before the start of Stage 8, he now finds himself trailing Coma in the overall standings by nine minutes 32. Despres now has tough remaining days ahead in the second half of the 2012 edition that finishes in Lima, Peru on January 15.

The eighth stage, the first after the one rest day at Copiapo in Chile included the longest timed special in the 2012 edition, taking riders 477 km. It was set between two liaison stretches that took them to 3,000 meters above sea level. Riders were on their bikes for a massive 722 km by the time they got to the finish at Antofagasta on the Chilean coast.

[Good day for Rubin Faria

On what was a critical day for Despres, his support rider Rubin Faria of Portugal fared better. He took second place in today's stage coming in seven minutes behind Coma to claim second place. Coma's support rider Joan Pedrero was sixth trailing by 10 minutes 31. Both Faria and Pedrero have incurred penalties in earlier stages. Pedrero is now tenth overall and Faria is thirteenth.

KTM's Johnny Aubert, who rides for the company's Enduro Factory Team, had his best day yet in what is his first Dakar appearance. The French rider is on a series KTM 450 Rally Replica bike and was ninth today, finishing 13 minutes 50 behind Coma. This moves him into fourteenth place overall.

Coma said at the end of the ride that he had been lucky to avoid the mud that reversed the fortunes of his teammate. "It was a very long special," he said. "I was lucky not to lose too much time in the mud and then I saw I could open a gap, so I attacked really hard. This is my 20th special victory. That's a nice figure but it's not winning the special that count, it's winning the race. And I know there is still a long week of racing ahead." Coma had put himself in the lead at the day's first Way Point and gradually built on it throughout the day.

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[Coma powers ahead through spectacular scenery in Chile

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Stage Eight Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 5 hours 03:52
2, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM at 7:00 minutes
3, Joan Barreda Bort, Spain, Husqvarna at 8:44
4, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 9:09
5, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 9:46
6, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 10:31
Other KTM
7, Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM at 12:35
9, Johnny Aubert, France KTM at 13:50
10, Alessandro Botturi, Italy at 15:36
11, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM at 15:38
12, Gerrard Farres Guell, Spain, KTM at 15:53
14, Cyril Despres, France, KTM at 17:20
17: Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM at 28:56
30, Chris Birch, New Zealand, KTM at 44:28

Overall Results after Stage Eight **
**1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 23 hours 24 minutes 18 seconds

2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM at 9 minutes 32
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 51:37
4, David Casteu, France, Yamaha at 1:10:37
5, Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM at 1:12:27
Other KTM **
6, Gerard Farres Guel, Spain, KTM at 1:16:05
7, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM at 1:18:40
**9, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM 1:26:31 (15 minutes penalty) **
11, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 1:41:58
12, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway at 1:45:53 (40 minutes penalty)
**13, Rubin Faria, Portugal, KTM, 1:59:51 (40 minutes penalty) **
15, Felipe Zanol, Brazil, KTM at 2:22:10 (40 minutes penalty)
16, Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM at 2:44.52
**17, Johnny Aubert, France, KTM at 2:54.11

39, Chris Birch, New Zealand, KTM at 5:55:48 (5 minutes penalty)