Dakar 2012 Coma rocket has taken off


    The Coma rocket has taken off. Second yesterday, the title holder has put some distance between himself and his main rivals for victory, starting with Cyril Despres, who is 2’52” behind in the general standings. In the care race, Nasser Al Attiyah put on a show to win the day’s special stage and claw himself to within 8’47” of Stephane Peterhansel, the new general standings leader.

    It is almost a different sport. With 295 kilometres covered in the special stage for the bikes, the gaps recorded are starting to be counted in minutes. Marc Coma, who already fired a warning shot over his rivals’ bows by putting in the second best time yesterday, did not take long to seize the opportunity to put some distance between his bike and the chasing pack. Having set of in second place behind Francisco Lopez, yesterday’s winner, the title holder won the 17th stage of his career on the Dakar, opening the road during the entire final part of the route.

    Some way behind the Spaniard, a traditional confrontation with Cyril Despres fell into place. After a gentle start to the competition yesterday, he was obliged to start in 13th place. On the tracks, he overtook Olivier Pain, then Pal Anders Ullevalseter and Quinn Cody, picking up the best time at the half-way point. However, in the final sandy section over the last 50 kilometres, Coma made up for time lost and even built up a lead of 1’18” over Despres. In the general standings, he takes command with a lead of 2’30” over Francisco Lopez.

    The provisional podium is completed by Despres, who nonetheless lags behind Coma by 2’52”. On this Dakar, third place on the stages seems to be reserved for surprise packages. After Pizzolito yesterday, it was the turn of Joan Barreda to do combat with the masters in the discipline, finishing 2’33” behind Coma on the stage. The Spaniard, who in particular won two stages on the recent Rally of Morocco, is perhaps following in the tyre-tracks of his elder countryman. In fact, the Husqvarna rider was born in Castellon, a town that has welcomed stages of the Dakar three times.

    The title holder also made his rivals sit up and take notice in the car category, and from a long way back too! Following a day when he came close to catastrophe, Nasser Al Attiyah began in 38th position on the starting line. It would appear that the mishaps and tiredness of the day before did not diminish the appetite or health of last year’s rally winner. On the route to San Rafael, he overtook no less than 17 cars within the space of 290 kilometres! At the half-way point, he already boasted the 12th best time, but his festival was far from finished.

    Ahead of him, the situation appeared to be pointing in favour of Stephane Peterhansel, even though Robby Gordon made an excellent account of himself, showing at CP1 that his Hummer could dominate the Minis. After 140 km of racing, he had a lead of approximately forty seconds over Holowczyc.

    However, in the dunes the situation changed, handing the advantage to “Peter”, who grabbed the fastest time to take hold of the lead in the general standings as well. But Nasser was hurtling towards the finishing line, with the dunes as an ally at the end of the day’s route. On the line, he beat the time of Stephane Peterhansel by 54 seconds. The Hummer clan had little to smile about yesterday. With two cars on the podium today, there is plenty to smile about now.

    In the quad race, Uruguayan Sergio Lafuente won a second special stage following 295 km of time racing that were significantly more meaningful than the victory of the day before in Santa Rosa. With this win, Sergio Lafuente has made a noteworthy emergence amongst the challengers for the title in Lima and obviously keeps hold of his place on top of the general standings for the category, leading Alejandro Patronelli by 6’34” and Tomas Maffei by 9’42”. Marcos Patronelli, two times winner in 2009 and 2010, is 9’48” ahead of the surprising rookie and youngest competitor in the event, Lucas Bonetto.

    At the wheel of his Iveco truck, Gerard De Rooy bathed himself in happy memories on the day’s stage. The team leader had not won a stage since the 2009 edition, on a route that also started from Santa Rosa de la Pampa. The Dutchman has done it again this year, with the satisfaction of seeing his team-mate and cousin Hans Stacey put another Iveco on the day’s podium. As leader of the general standings, De Rooy may still cast a nervous glance towards the performances of the young drivers on the Kamaz team: Nikolaev finished on the 2nd step of the podium, whilst Ayrat Mardeev finished in 4th position.