Red Bull KTM factory rider Cyril Despres of France got down to the serious business of the Dakar on Friday in the penultimate stage of the 2013 edition managing to extend his overall lead to eight minutes 15 as he chases his fifth Dakar title going into Saturday’s final stage.
After another 440 km of timed special, Despres finished second to Chilean KTM rider Chaleco Lopez, who won the stage five minutes 25 ahead of Despres. This sets the stage for a final dash to the finish between these two KTM riders when they complete the more than 8000 km charge from Lima to Santiago, Chile via Argentina. Despres must go into the final stage bearing in mind that Chaleco is a formidable threat on his home ground. The Chilean rider has a record of a total of six stage victories since the Dakar moved to South America and four of these have been on his home territory. Chaleco will also be spurred on by the hundreds of thousands of local fans who are expected to come out to cheer him and the riders as they head for the finish.
Ruben Faria, the factory support rider is at third overall, trailing the leader by 14.41 but lost some time finishing at fifteenth in Stage 13 and slipped from down second overall. Going into the penultimate stage KTM riders occupy the first five places in the overall standings.
Speaking after the timed special Despres underlined that the Dakar is about strategy and the sport of rally raid. “I felt good on the first section, where there was quite a bit of navigation. Then I saw that I’d got some time back on Chaleco and that he wasn’t going to disappear into the distance over 140 km. So I thought I had better be careful with the engine. Since I ate quite a bit of dust in the morning, I preferred to make sure and take it easy. For Ruben, we tried our best… but the navigation wasn’t that easy in the morning. There were two or three tricky bits of reading to select the right track.” Despres is a veteran rider who knows that in the Dakar nothing is decided until riders reach the finish line and he was quick to point out that there was still a total of 630 km to travel before Santiago. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” he said.
Unlucky on Friday was KTM factory rider Kurt Caselli, who stepped in at the last minute to ride for the injured Marc Coma and has delivered a great performance in his rookie Dakar, including two stage wins. On Friday Caselli was reported to have had some technical problems at the 396 km mark and at the time of writing was making his way back to the bivouac. KTM team manager Alex Doringer said the crew would make the necessary repairs on Caselli’s bike to make sure he is able to complete the final stage. He said up to a million people are expected to welcome the riders at the finish line in Santiago, the Chilean capital.
“We’re in good shape heading for Santiago with five KTM riders topping the overall standings and both our teams are very upbeat. Tonight we will be doing a thorough check of the bikes ahead of the last 128 km timed special.”
Saturday riders still have to travel 630 km south along the Pacific coastline and survive 128 km of timed special to complete this edition of the Dakar.
Image courtesy KTM