Dakar overall leader Marc Coma of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team continued to hold onto his 38-minute lead in Stage Eight as riders completed the second half of the second marathon stage in Bolivia.
At the end of the stage, riders entered Chilean territory, signaling that there is going to be a lot of action in the dunes for the second week of this motorsports epic.
Coma came home third in the stage just two minutes 16 behind his old rival Cyril Despres, who is well back in the overall field because of difficulties in the first week. During what was 462 km of timed special, Coma, KTM’s three-time Dakar winner sacrificed only six seconds of his overall lead on Joan Barreda, who was second in Monday’s stage. Although anything can happen and usually does in the Dakar, Coma now has an overall lead of 38 minutes 08 over Barreda going into Chile.
Marc Coma: We had a good rhythm right from the beginning of the stage today so we were able to keep a good level of concentration. This was very important over this type of terrain because small mistakes can cost you the race. The next part of the rally will be crucial and tomorrow I will be out there with my usual determination because the first dunes of the Atacama Desert are waiting for us.”
Red Bull KTM teammate Jordi Viladoms further secured his third place in the overall standings even though he trails Coma by 1 hour 27.27. Viladoms is now almost 22 minutes ahead of the fourth placed rider, Alain Duclos of France.
The two KTM-supported riders had a great day out on Monday. Riaan van Niekerk of South Africa finished in seventh place only 13.21 behind the leader for his best ride so far in the rally. Kuba Przygonski was in ninth in the stage, trailing by 13.35. Przygonski is now overall seventh and Van Niekerk is thirteenth.
Coma, Viladoms, Przygonski and Van Niekerk now all have the two marathon stages in the bag, always a test as riders are not permitted any outside mechanical assistance or change of tires over a two-stage period.
It was also a historic couple of days for the Dakar Rally, having added Bolivia to the impressive list of countries through which the rally has been run. After overnighting in Uyuni, where riders received a rapturous welcome by the Bolivian people, they then had a big ride around, and at times across, the Salar de Uyuni. The massive salt flat covers 400 km.
Riders crossed the Andes Cordillera and into Chilean territory after completing the timed special on Monday.
Tuesday’s stage will finish at the rally’s most northern point this year at Iquique, where riders will get their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Before that, it will also be a day for the desert specialists as they enter the dunes of Chile’s famed Atacama Desert. The final descent down into Iquique provides an adrenalin rush with a steep descent down to the finish on a steep slope of a 30% gradient.
Results Stage 8 (unofficial) – second half of the second marathon stage taking riders from Bolivia into Chile
Uyuni – Calama – 230 liaison, 462 km special = 692 km
1, Cyril Despres, FRA, Yamaha at 5 hours 23.14
2, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 2.10
3, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 2.16
4, Helder Rodrigues, PRT, Honda at 6.44
5, Olivier Pain, FRA, Yamaha at 10.46