Red Bull KTM factory rider Cyril Despres of France on Saturday picked up his fifth Dakar trophy when he crossed the line of the 2013 edition of the world’s most famous rally as the winner after more than 8000 km. It was KTM’s twelfth consecutive title and KTM riders took all five top overall paces.
Despres’ long time ‘water carrier’ or factory support rider Ruben Faria of Portugal won the final stage and finished second overall, ten minutes 43 behind the leader. Chilean Chaleco Lopez (KTM) was third overall while Slovak KTM rider Ivan Jakes was fourth and KTM factory rider Joan Pedrero of Spain was fifth.
The French rider, a veteran of this amazing race said it all after securing his fifth title:
“I went for it, with all the surprises a Dakar can throw at you,” he said. “Little navigational mistakes, perhaps fewer than the others, taking care of my motorcycle and being in a good team. In the end, I’ve got a good reason to be very happy. The day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won’t be interesting any more. And this day is still far! It’s too long, it’s too tough, it’s too hot. It’s too cold. You’ve got to get up early in the morning. You’ve got to find your way out of the maze of dunes in Peru and Chile. You’ve got to tackle the stones and cactuses on the courses near Córdoba. It’s just too tricky for it to be easy to win. And it’s even better when you win a difficult race. I’m always focused on what I have to do. We’re up against a grueling element, the desert. Then there are the stones, the Andes… and we experience them. It’s as real as it gets.”
Despres won Stage three and led the overall standings from Stage 10.
Faria too was thrilled to finish second. “Yesterday I lost second place and I thought that just being on the podium would be great for me; to be Cyril Despres’ lieutenant. I didn’t believe it could happen that I could finish second. It’s inconceivable.”
Alex Doringer KTM’s Factory Team Manager praised Despres’ riding, his tactics and strategy and said after the race that he was very proud of his entire team. “The result is amazing. The whole team did an exceptional job and we have to thank them all. We believed in our bikes and we believed in our riders. All seven of our factory riders finished and to have five KTM riders on the top of the list was a fantastic result.”
The Dakar 2013 had more than its share of dramatic moments for the KTM Factory team, including the last minute withdrawal just before the race by Despres’ long time teammate and rival Marc Coma. Coma’s injured shoulder, banged up in a crash in the Morocco Rally late last year was still giving him problems and doctors declared he was not fit enough to compete.
Despres also suffered a major setback in the marathon Stages 7-8 during which riders were unable to call upon outside mechanical help from their team. He was put back on track after being offered the engine from KTM supported rider Marek Dabrowski of the Orlen Team and by the collective effort of his fellow KTM riders who banded together to work at night and change out the engine themselves in the riders’ bivouac.
Jakub Przygonski of Poland and Riaan Van Niekerk of South Africa of KTM’s Factory B team finished eleventh and thirteenth. Kurt Caselli, KTM’s American rider drafted in to ride for injured Coma and Darryl Curtis of South Africa both recovered well from crashes and technical setbacks to put adversity behind them and finished a creditable 31st and 32nd.
Another outstanding performance came from KTM Australia’s Ben Grabham who entered this test of man and machine after a massive crash one year ago while competing in the Australian outback when he hit a kangaroo at high speed and broke his back in several places. KTM had five riders in the top ten and 10 in the top 20 finishers in the 2013 edition.
Image courtesy KTM