Despres went out as leader on the final day with a mass start and where riders completed 4 x 40 km loops with plenty of overtaking possibilities on off track, large expanses of sand and some dunes. He successfully held off his two main rivals Coma and Portuguese Yamaha rider Helder Rodrigues to snatch the overall lead. Coma too rode monumental race to finish third after a total of 36 minutes in time penalties.
How they did it: Stage One
The two KTM factory riders opened their bid in Stage One making short work of the mountainous, winding and rocky tracks and the dunes. They hit the front and that is where they stayed. At the end of the first day, which he described as "a beautiful warm-up", it was a triumph for Despres, racing his first rally in six months after taking a break from the action for the arrival of his new daughter.
Coma, fresh from victory in the Pharaons Rally in Egypt where he sealed the 2010 World Championship Rally title, was also positive about his first outing on the 450 saying: "The first stage of the rally has been quite challenging, but the feeling with the new bike has been very good. There are some adjustments to improve, and get used to riding in a different way - a more attacking style rather that just using the power."
Organizers had introduced some special navigational challenges for the 2010 edition where competitors had to locate certain points on the course with a margin of error of 400 meters. It was this that cost Coma a 30 minute penalty on Stage Two when after he finished ahead of Despres for another 1-2 KTM stage victory, he was handed down a late time penalty by the jury that knocked him down to fourth overall, giving Cyril the clear edge on the overall lead.
Cyril Despres also commented that the navigation of this year's edition was proving tricky. "At around kilometer 100 on the first loop, at a modification to the road book, I went a little too far to the right before cutting left again for about two km to get back on the correct piste. Then a km from the end of the first loop I got properly stuck in some soft sand and Marc went by."
The rally is designed in a loop format this year and the two KTM riders turned up the heat on the second loop of day two. "We were a whole 10 minutes faster than the first time around! But despite attacking hard over soft sand the bike once again ran faultlessly - a very encouraging second day," Despres commented.
Wednesday vaulted Coma back into the limelight with another stage victory and he was able to put the disappointment behind him on a day where Despres experienced some difficulties, even if he was able to hang on to the overall lead.
"I lost the track 100 m out of the start," Cyril said. He said there was also a problem with visibility because of rain. "I decided to follow Helder Rodrigues. After the heat of the first day, the dunes yesterday, we had mud today. Great testing grounds for our new KTM 450," he said.
Thursday was another triumph for Marc Coma who won the stage and charged on to move up to third in the overalls after carving valuable time off his deficit to trail by just seven minutes. Meanwhile a navigational error at the beginning of the second loop cost Despres valuable time and left him back at sixth in the Stage Four results, even if he did still have a narrow hold on the overall rankings.
Despres, well known for his huge mental strength as well as his riding skills grasped the challenge at the start of the penultimate stage on Friday and went out to increase his overall lead to almost 10 minutes on second placed Helder Rodrigues. He also managed to put more than 15 minutes between himself and Coma, which put him in good shape for the final charge on Saturday.
Despres after Friday's ride: "I wasn't too happy with myself for letting my guard drop yesterday and so started this morning determined to make amends. I left the line in sixth place, but behind five riders who were attacking hard. At about kilometer 40 I came across Olivier Pain who was having trouble with his bike, so that was one rider whose dust I didn't have to worry about. Then at the refueling point I saw that I had taken back about 1 minute 30 seconds and that allowed me to back off a little. By the end of the special I had managed to pull back a small but significant amount of time on Rodrigues and Coma.
Perfect performance by KTM riders and the new 450 Rally Replica
The six days of desert riding was the perfect launch pad for the new KTM 450 Rally Replica and the team reported not a single mechanical issue with the new machine in the hands of the two best rally riders in the world. The results were a triumph for riders, machine and the entire team involved in its development.
Final results after six stages:
1, Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
3, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
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