Dakar Rally Preview

KTM's Marc Coma Out, Honda Returns

The 2013 Dakar Rally is only days away, and while most teams are putting the finishing touches on their bikes, perennial favorite KTM is scrambling after one of its two top riders, three-time Dakar winner Marc Coma, was injured during the Rally of Morocco.

“We worked really hard with the doctors and the physiotherapists right up until the last minute but we have to be realistic,” Coma was quoted in a press release. “One of the muscles in my shoulder is still giving me problems and there is a lack of movement. This is the logical consequence and we must be honest and clear about the situation.” With Coma sidelined, the Austrian factory’s hopes fall on the as-yet uninjured shoulders of four-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres, who will team with KTM USA’s Kurt Caselli, stepping in for Coma.

Over in the Honda pit, a team that started out with five riders has been pared down to three after Felipe Zanol of Brazil and Sam Sutherland of the U.S. crashed in the Mojave during practice for the Dakar. Honda’s Team HRC will soldier on with Helder Rodrigues (Portugal), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina), and 11-time Baja 1000 champ Johnny Campbell (USA). The team’s entry in the event marks Honda’s return to the Dakar Rally after a 21-year absence.

Among the riders anticipating the start of the Dakar Rally, none is more excited than Josefina Gardulsky, who will become the first South American woman to compete in the motorcycle class. The Chilean cross-country and endurance champ placed sixth in her first rally, the Desafio del Desierto, and hopes simply to finish the world’s most punishing off-road race.