After a difficult day on Friday in the Dakar 2013, Red Bull KTM Factory Rider and titleholder Cyril Despres managed to claw back some time in Stage Eight on Saturday, the last day before the one rest day in this mammoth 8000 km trek through a good slice of South America.
Despres and his factory teammate had worked in the riders’ bivouac for much of the night to change engines on his machine after he suffered mechanical issues the previous day. Stages seven and eight were designated ‘marathon’ stages in which competitors were allowed no outside assistance from their support team. So it was up to his fellow factory riders to help Cyril make the switch. In a show of typical KTM team solidarity they all worked to change over the engine of Despres’ bike with the KTM-supported bike of Polish rider Marek Dabrowski. KTM is indebted to Marek’s team for allowing the changeover.
Despres went out on Saturday hoping to gain some time and managed to avoid navigational mistakes to finish 9′26″ down on new overall leader David Casteu of France. But he will be handed a 15-minute penalty for the engine change and this will drop him down to sixth place overall ahead of the second week of racing. His position going into the second half of the rally could also be influenced if other riders choose to strategically change their engines on the rest day Sunday.
The French rider also seemed to have a lucky break when many of the leader riders got lost in the final section of Saturday’s timed special and finished well down the order on the official time sheets. On Saturday riders also had a much shorter challenge than the planned 491 km of timed special when organizers announced at the beginning of the day that only the second half would be contested due to heavy overnight rain in the region. The second half of the timed special was new to all riders because it broke new ground not previously covered in earlier editions.
Team boss Alex Doringer said on Saturday night after clearly what was an eventful day on the stage that the race was still wide open. “Saturday showed us that nothing has been decided yet,” he said.
Sunday is the official rest day however teams will be very busy preparing the bikes for the second half of the rally.
Image courtesy KTM