Dakar Rally 2012 - Videos, Pictures, Blogs from the Dakar rally

Take on the world’s biggest rally raid as the Rally Dakar 2012 goes coast to coast through deserts and over mountains as they head from Argentina across the Andes to Chile and Peru. We’ll bring you daily updates from the front runners, fan favourites and delve deep into the bivouac to meet the big personalities who make the Dakar Rally one of the world’s most special races.
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Win Cyril Despres and Marc Coma prizes | Jan 20, 2012 DAKAR COMPETITION

Dakar Competition: Win signed Dakar 2012 roadbooks and KTM Team jerseys from Dakar legends Cyril Despres and Marc Coma...

Win Signed Dakar Roadbooks and Team Jerseys

When it comes to legends of the Dakar Rally, there’s almost nothing to choose between France’s Cyril Despres and Spain’s Marc Coma. If you need proof, just look at the action from the 2012 Dakar Rally.

For two weeks, the rivals raced almost neck and neck from to the Pacific, Mar Del Plata, Argentina, on the Atlantic, crossing deserts and the mighty Andes to Lima, Peru, on the Pacific.

In the end, a gearbox issue on Marc Coma’s KTM allowed Cyril Despres to edge in front and claim overall victory. That puts him 4-3 ahead of his great Catalan rival, but you can bet the farm that Marc will come back strongly next year.

And to celebrate, both men have handed us the perfect souvenir of the Dakar Rally 2012: signed roadbooks, which set out the day's route and checkpoints, and team jerseys. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is answer this simple question:

In total, how many stage victories did Cyril Despres and Marc Coma take between them in the 2012 Dakar Rally?

a) 3

b) 5

c) 8

Send the answer to redbull.competition@gmail.com, along with your name, address and a contact number. The first name drawn at random from all the correct entries received will win a signed roadbook and jersey from Cyril Despres. The second name drawn at random from all the correct entries will win a signed roadbook and jersey from Marc Coma.

The draw will be held on Sunday, February 5 after the end of the Enduropale du Touquet Hard Enduro in France.

 

Terms & Conditions

1. This draw is not open to employees or agents of Red Bull or anyone professionally connected with the promotion and their immediate families.

2. No purchase necessary.

3. Closing date for entries is 12pm on February 5, 2012.

4. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries received.

5. These prizes are non-transferable, non-fundable and there is no cash alternative. In the unlikely event this prize should become unavailable, the Promoter reserves the right to substitute for a prize of equal or greater value.

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Best of Dakar 2012 | Jan 18, 2012 HIGHLIGHTS DAKAR 2012

Watch the best of Dakar 2012 in this all-action compilation video packed with powerful scenic shots, reckless driving manoeuvres and dramatic crashes...

 

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Coming down the stretch to Lima | Jan 17, 2012 HIGHLIGHTS DAKAR 2012

The 14th and final stage of the Dakar Rally saw little change to the standings from Stage 13. With the tops spots all but cemented in, the race from Pisco to Lima was more of a victory lap than a flat out race. Watch all the winners roll into Lima as another edition of the world's toughest rally comes to a close.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | Planted on the podium | Jan 16, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers steered his Toyota Hilux to a third-place finish on the car’s Dakar debut. The South African tells us how it was done...

It was an excellent rally for Dirk and myself, for the Toyota Hilux and the entire team we've had behind us the whole way. To come here with a car that had never been tested at the Dakar and finish on the podium is absolutely brilliant.

It was a tough race this year from the start and especially the last few stages we got here in Peru. These last three days were really tricky and definitely proper Dakar stages. We were so fortunately to have a car that ran with no technical problems, in fact we didn’t have one technical issue throughout the entire race.

You’ve got to take your hat off to our mechanics for the work they did because that made my job of driving so much easier. The podium place we finished up with is a testament to the team and the great job they did. It has been an unbelievable effort and I’m so proud of the whole team.

'Our trump card was the reliability of the Toyota Hilux.'

You never go to the Dakar expecting an easy time and the level of difficulty of this year’s race was no different to what we have had to deal with in previous editions. We knew before we started this year’s Dakar that we would not have the same horsepower and torque of the Minis. To be right in amongst a car which has had so much time and money invested in it is a great result for us.

Our trump card was the reliability of the Toyota Hilux because we never had to stop to fix any major problems on any stage of the race. That’s why we are able to finish on the podium. Now I’m already looking forward to next year’s race because the playing field will be a lot more level. Every car will be required to run with the standard engine that we used this year and hopefully it’ll benefit us to be one step ahead of the game.

There’s no doubt that next year we’ll be coming to the race to try and win.

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Cyril Despres | Down to the wire | Jan 16, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril Despres wins his fourth Dakar Rally title in Lima and tells us about securing the toughest victory of his career...

The key to my victory this year was paying attention to all the little details that allow you to have a successful race. The days were so long as they always are on the Dakar and every evening I had to do my homework and prepare the roadbook. Sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to do this properly after a full day of riding but it’s such an important thing to get right.

'I have that winning feeling and it’s simply fantastic.'

To win the Dakar, you need to dedicate yourself to being fully prepared as well as making sure you look after your body and your bike. When all these things are taken care of, you give yourself a chance of winning. Today I have that winning feeling and it’s simply fantastic. This feeling makes all the hard work at the race and throughout the whole year worth the effort.

The 2012 Dakar is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I have ever raced in. It was very demanding physically but also such an intense psychological battle. Every day, I had to rise to the challenge and that takes its toll on the mind. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint because even when you do a good job one day, you have to go out there and repeat it tomorrow and the next day for two tough weeks.

This is my fourth Dakar title and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them but this one seems even more special than the rest. This race really came down to the wire and the result was not decided until the very last minute.

'I’ve done nearly 100 rallies and this is the one where I had to fight the hardest to get the win.'

It was an unbelievable scenario this year with the Marc [Coma] and myself separated by mere seconds. I’ve now done nearly 100 rallies throughout my life and this is the one where I had to fight the hardest to get the win.

I feel so drained, it’s impossible to think about what I will be doing next year. I’m looking forward to spending some time on the sofa with my family in front of the television. After that, I guess I will still have the passion to race because that is what I do.

I would like to congratulate Stephane Peterhansel for his great victory in the car race and also thank my support rider Rubin Faria for another great job this year.

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Despres beats Coma to win fourth dakar title | Jan 15, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Cyril Despres has claimed his fourth Dakar crown by completing his victory in the 2012 Dakar Rally, with fellow Red Bull riders Marc Coma and Helder Rodrigues in second and third.

Despres' victory was all but confirmed yesterday when close rival Coma suffered gearbox problems on Stage 13 and in today's short 29km stage, Despres did enough to add another title to the ones he won in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Norway's Pal Anders Ullevalseter won the final stage from Pisco to Lima, with Coma in second place, but Despres' lead was such that he could afford to come home in 10th place and still seal victory.

'THIS IS WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THE TOUGHEST DAKAR I'VE EVER RACED IN' – CYRIL DESPRES

"Today we won and it's simply fantastic," Despres said. "This is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I've ever raced in. It was difficult physically, but even more psychologically. Challenging yourself every morning and fighting on the course takes its toll on your mind. It's not like a 42-kilometre marathon; here, you have to earn your place every morning.

"All victories are beautiful, but this one is special because it came down to the wire and was decided at the last minute. This was an unimaginable scenario, with the leaders separated by mere seconds.

"I've done 90 or 85 rallies throughout my life, and this one was the one where I had to fight the hardest. Today will leave its mark on me."

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Giniel de Villiers | Leading the pack | Jan 15, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers once again proved that when the going gets tough the South African driver gets tougher…

I’m sitting here with a big smile on my face after another great day’s racing but I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for my team-mate Vossy (Duncan Vos). I’ve just had a word with him and he was really in the wars today. He got stuck in a bowl and he nearly got clattered by a truck, really mean stuff! But at least he’s here now so that’s a good thing.

All the things happening to Vossy just show you how well built our Toyota Hilux is, it can get a little bit smashed up but it stays in one piece. It’s always stays running with all four wheels pointing forward so it’s proved to be a pretty strong machine.

'TOMORROW IS ALL ABOUT FINISHING UP THE GREAT JOB THIS TEAM HAS ALLOWED US TO DO'

For Dirk and myself we enjoyed another very beautiful stage with just the right degree of difficulty about it. That’s what I think a Dakar stage should be like. It was tough but that’s what we expect to find at this race. We also got stuck and I think Stephane (Peterhansel) was the only guy who didn’t get trapped today. Our little mishap only ended up costing us about six minutes so we can accept a setback like that.

You definitely needed your wits about you to make it through some of the sections on this stage. We were crossing the dunes over this soft sand. The place we were got stuck we saw Nani (Roma) was also having some difficulty there as well. Then further on we reached a waypoint that showed up an error in the roadbook but we managed to find it okay in the end. We were driving around in circles for about four five minutes trying to find it. There were a few guys also having a problem there but we found it first before all of them.

After that we lead the way and were still the first car at the finish of the stage. It was a nice feeling to be leading the pack again. Now tomorrow is all about finishing up the great job this team has allowed us to do so far at this race.

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Marc Coma | Never going to be easy | Jan 15, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Marc Coma looks back on a problem on the penultimate stage of the 2012 Dakar rally that appears to have cost him the overall lead.

Before we come to each Dakar we know that things are going to be difficult. The race is so long and this means that everything is possible. On the third day of this race we made a mistake and after that we had to try to get back into the race. To do that we had to keep pushing on every day and over every kilometre. That was the only option we had.

We managed to change the situation by recovering the time that had been lost on the leader and that meant we had options again. We thought we were in a better position than we were but then the jury decided to give back minutes to some riders. Even with that we were still in the race and we just kept pushing until the end.

'I LANDED A JUMP AND HEARD THIS AWFUL SOUND FROM BENEATH ME ON THE BIKE'

Today was always going to be difficult for me to maintain the small lead I had because I was opening the road. At the 26km mark my gearbox broke, I landed a jump and heard this awful sound from beneath me on the bike. After that I had no second or third gear and in that moment I realised that this would not be my year.

It was such a pity because the whole team had worked so hard to put me in a position to fight for the win. After fighting over every kilometre of track it’s hard to get a problem so near the end that costs so much time. Now I’m left with a strange feeling because to get this far in the Dakar is always a great achievement but also I know how close I came to winning the race.

I think it was a really interesting race this year between Cyril and myself, we were really going for it out there. Our place in the end is second position but that is the Dakar, it’s never going to be easy.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Dust starts to settle | Jan 15, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

In Peru the word Pisco usually leads to a party but the leaders of the 2012 Dakar Rally must keep the champagne on ice for one more night...

The dust may now be settling on the latest edition of the desert classic but anything can still happen during the 29km of racing that remains

In the bike race one man’s loss was another man’s gain as Cyril Despres took advantage of some gearbox trouble for Marc Coma

“Today was always going to be difficult for me to maintain the small lead I had because I was opening the road. At the 26km mark my gearbox broke, I landed a jump and heard this awful sound from beneath me on the bike. After that I had no second or third gear and in that moment I realised that this would not be my year.” – Marc Coma

“I’m not the kind of person who derives pleasure from the problems of my team-mates and even less when it’s Marc (Coma) who is in trouble. I was surprised when I realised that I had clawed back five minutes on Marc when I saw him at the refuelling point on the stage. When I saw him at the refuelling station I saw he had dust on his face so I knew some other biker had managed to pass him already.” – Cyril Despres

Third placed biker Helder Rodrigues may be an hour behind the front runners but he proved on stage 13 that he has what it takes to get in front of his rivals.


'Winning a stage is always a great feeling and getting on the final podium is always cool' – Helder Rodrigues

“Winning a stage is always a great feeling and getting on the final podium is always cool. I know that I’m able to perform better than I have this year but today at least I got some time back on Marc and Cyril. Now I need to get my plan together for next year and that means lots of hard work. I’m thinking about bringing a new bike next year but only if I have the chance to do all the testing that requires.” – Helder Rodrigues

It looks like another Dakar win in the car class for Stephane Peterhansel but he will have Giniel de Villiers breathing down his neck all the way to Lima.

“For Dirk and myself we enjoyed another very beautiful stage with just the right degree of difficulty about it. That’s what I think a Dakar stage should be like. It was tough but that’s what we expect to find at this race. We also got stuck in the dunes and I think race leader Stephane (Peterhansel) was the only guy who didn’t get trapped today. Our little mishap only ended up costing us about six minutes so we can accept a setback like that.” – Giniel de Villiers

The final stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally will surely bring about the inevitable result of wins for Gerard de Rooj and Alejandro Patronelli in the truck and quad races respectively.

Dakar Digit: 29km

With only 29km of timed racing tomorrow the leaderboard is expected to shift very little on the final stage. However, last year podium places changed hands in both the bike and the quad races during the final leg of the race. Further proof that with Dakar nothing is decided until the fat lady has well and truly belted out that tune

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Cyril Despres | Keeping Calm | Jan 15, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril Despres looks to have secured his fourth Dakar Rally title after opening up an 11-minute lead over Marc Coma with one stage of the race remaining.

I’m not the kind of person who derives pleasure from the problems of my team-mates and even less when it’s Marc (Coma) who is in trouble. I was surprised when I realised that I had clawed back five minutes on Marc when I saw him at the refuelling point on the stage. Marc opened the road today but when I saw him at the refuelling station I saw he had dust on his face so I knew some other biker had managed to pass him already.

It was a tough stage today and I got lost a couple of times but it never became a big problem. I was able to get back on the right track every time I lost my way a little bit.


'I WILL STAY CALM TONIGHT AND THEN ENJOY THE VICTORY IF IT COMES TOMORROW'

I was making sure I took no risks on the stage and managed to stay focused on just riding at my own rhythm and racing my own race. Because of the small margin in the times at the top of the leaderboard plus these tough stages in Peru it was obvious today was going to be tough. I was prepared for a real psychological test today.

Whenever I find myself needing a little something extra out on a stage I always remember a good friend of mine. He unfortunately died in an avalanche when we were together in the mountains and whenever I win a race now I feel like I do it for the both of us. When I need to really focus I remember some great advice he gave me for staying mentally tough. I visit his kids when I go to Paris and they always cheer for me at the Dakar.

Tomorrow’s stage is very short but I’ll not be taking any chances on the way into Lima. I always wait until the official end of the race before taking the chance to enjoy the results. I have been at this race so many times and seen so much happen that I know things aren’t over until they are really over. I will stay calm tonight and then enjoy the victory if it comes tomorrow.

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Marc Coma | Not one minute to relax | Jan 14, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Marc Coma leads Cyril Despres by one minute and 35 seconds after 12 stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally. Marc tells us about his plan for the final two days…

Some parts of the stage today were really like Africa. The terrain was totally different to what we got in Chile. The type of dunes there are like mountains covered in a thin layer of sand. But what we got in Peru today was softer and deeper – real dunes.

It was a pleasure to ride the stage today – but this is the Dakar, so it was really tough as well. It was not easy to make a pass out there in the middle of all that desert and we were racing at the hottest time of day. The sun was in my eyes the whole time and that makes visibility an issue. Now I'm remembering all these things it’s hard to think why I had so much fun on the stage, but I really did have a good time!

Before this year's race began I checked out the route and thought it looked more like an African Dakar compared to previous races in South America. This is how things have worked out because the desert is there right until the end and that means the stages remain difficult.

"IT’S HARD TO THINK WHY I HAD SO MUCH FUN ON THE STAGE, BUT I REALLY DID HAVE A GOOD TIME!"

The pressure that comes with this race won't stop now, things will be really intense over each kilometre until the finish line. It’s been a difficult race for my team and we've always been pushing to recover minutes. But that's the only way to get back in the race – push and push and then push some more. Two weeks of pushing and not one minute to relax.

Tomorrow will be exactly the same, plus I'll have the extra job of opening the stage and finding the right route. It will be difficult to protect this small lead I have but not impossible. As long as I still have a chance to win I'll give it everything I have.

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Adam Malysz | Anything can happen anytime | Jan 14, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Polish ski-jumper turned endurance driver Adam Malysz continues to impress at the Dakar 2012. Adam tells us about his journey so far…

Stage 12 of the Dakar treated us well with a smooth drive through the dunes of Peru. The only problem we had was getting through the traffic to the special stage, but once we started racing everything went well. I was happy today went smoothly because yesterday was a really nasty day for us after we had a problem with our clutch.

We waited over five hours for the support truck to reach us and give us the parts we needed. It was a long day and such a relief to get the car back to camp after eventually solving the problem.

This is my first time racing the Dakar and I think the experience has provided a sample of everything the journey is about. We've had our fair share of good days but yesterday showed us that anything can happen at anytime during this race.

We lost six hours after yesterday’s problems. After the clutch was fixed we still had to drive back to camp and because it was the middle of the night we had to go slow. We passed through this very narrow canyon and the top speed we managed through there in the dark was no more than 5kmph.

"I THINK THE TITLES I WON AS SKI JUMPER MADE PEOPLE EXPECT I COULD GO TO THE DAKAR AND WIN BUT THAT WAS NEVER SOMETHING I CONSIDERED"

Despite having such a hard day it was still a great feeling to return to camp and know that we're still in the race. You forget any problems immediately and just think about getting back in the car and racing again.

I think the titles I won as ski jumper made people expect I could go to the Dakar and win but that was never something I considered. I said at the start of the race that this is just the beginning for me and I’m glad to still be in the race with two stages remaining.

My own personal goal at the start was to get to the end of the race and now I’m so close. I just want to finish the job I came to South America to do. If and when I get to Lima I'll start thinking about coming back to race. I don’t think this is just a one-time thing for me.

Another thing I’d like to say is how great the atmosphere is. I've enjoyed being among all the competitors, especially the Polish guys in the camp. These guys might be in different teams and disciplines but there is always help there if you need it. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see much of anyone else apart from my own team because there’s always so much do to. But I am looking forward to the Pulpety (Polish meatballs) that my friend Wojtek Sanecki from Red Bull Poland has promised to give me at the finish line.

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Marc Coma´s Stage Profiles | Stage 14 Pisco - Lima | Jan 14, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

On the final stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally, the competitors would do well to not underestimate the treacherous dunes on their way from Pico to Lima. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 14 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video

 

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Daily Dakar Diary | Shifting through the sands of time| Jan 14, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Tourists visiting the world-famous Nazca Lines were treated to some high-speed action as the 2012 Dakar Rally barrelled through on its way towards the finish line in Lima…

Cyril Despres and Marc Coma might be feeling the pressure now that they're separated by less than two minutes but both bikers still managed to have a good time on stage 12.

Said Marc Coma: “Some parts of the stage today were really like Africa. The terrain was totally different to what we got in Chile. The type of dunes there are like mountains covered in a thin layer of sand. But what we got in Peru today was just softer and deeper – real dunes!”

Here's what Cyril Despres had to report: “Opening the route and racing on the virgin ground really helped me to focus on just riding my own race out there. There were times when I decided to slow down because it became too risky, especially in the last kilometres. The first thought I had when finishing the stage was not about times, but how much fun it was to have raced a stage like that. It’s stages like today's that are my reason for doing this sport."

Another biker who enjoyed the ride was Marek Dabrowski (pictured above) of the Orlen Team. It’s not been an easy ride for Marek but he is determined to break through the pain barrier and finish the race.

"IT’S NOT BEEN AN EASY RIDE FOR MAREK BUT HE IS DETERMINED TO BREAK THROUGH THE PAIN BARRIER AND FINISH THE RACE"

“When I get back to Poland I think my physiotherapist is going to be very busy," said Marek Dabrowski. "I need to get myself back in good shape to ride without pain. Riding with pain and riding without pain are two completely different things and I know which one I prefer!”

There was also plenty of fun to be had in the car race with 2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers feeling like he'd been transported back to Africa.

Said Giniel: “In other years that we've raced the Dakar in South America we have always headed back to Buenos Aires for the final stages of the race. Usually on World Rally Championship style stages that get a bit predictable towards the end. What we’re getting here in Peru reminds me so much of Africa – and I mean the toughest parts of the Africa route."

Still in the race is former Olympic medal-winning ski jumper Adam Malysz and the world-famous Pole is happy to be nearing the finish line.

“I think the titles I won as ski jumper made people expect I could go to the Dakar and win but that was never something I considered," said Adam. "I said at the start of the race that this is just the beginning for me in rally racing and I’m just glad to still be involved with two stages remaining.”

A Dutch one-two in the truck race, with Hans Stacey following Gerard de Rooj, now looks a certainty. The KAMAZ teams (one of them pictured above) are back in third, fourth and six respectively. The only name you have to worry about in the quad contest is Patronelli.

Dakar Digit: 159km

A good day for Giniel de Villiers could have been a great day but for falling into a sand trap at the 159km mark in the day’s timed special stage. Despite the setback the South African is still third in the overall standings and will be out to protect his podium place tomorrow.

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Giniel de Villier | Getting a taste for it | Jan 14, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel showed his class with a superb drive through the dunes in the latest stage of Dakar 2012…

This year's Dakar really served up a tricky stage today – the most difficult we’ve had this year by a long way. You just have to look at the time that race leader Stephane [Peterhansel] lost to stage winner Robby Gordon. I think Stephane lost nearly 30 minutes and Nani [Roma] in the other Mini suffered too.

In other years that we've raced in South America we've always headed back to Buenos Aires for the final stages, usually on World Rally Championship style stages that get a bit predictable towards the end. What we’re getting here in Peru reminds me so much of Africa – and I mean the toughest parts of the Africa route.

"WHAT WE’RE GETTING HERE IN PERU REMINDS ME SO MUCH OF AFRICA – AND I MEAN THE TOUGHEST PARTS OF THE AFRICA ROUTE"

I took my hat off to my co-pilot Dirk when he got us through the dunes and on to a nice track. I saw one of the Minis going off the other way and I was tempted to follow but Dirk told me it was the wrong way. That little move had us leading the stage for a while and things were going nicely for us. I always said that the more technical stages would suit us and it was panning out that way.

But then came our turn to get stuck in the dunes. It was pretty unavoidable on today’s stage, but I was happy with how we dealt with the situation. We jumped out and deflated the tyres a bit to help us get free. The whole thing probably cost us no more than six minutes so it was no massive disaster.

I’ve really got a taste for driving in Peru now and it’s a shame there’s only two stages left. A few extra days in these dunes and we could really get ourselves in the mix. But what we do have is our third-place position and maybe protecting that will be enough to deal with in the next two days.

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Stage 11 Video Highlights | The spirit of the Dakar | Jan 13, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

In today's video update from the Dakar 2012, we bring you all the action from the 11th stage, where the title contenders in the different categories once again demonstrated their superiority, and we visit some of the competitors who live the 'old spirit' of the Dakar as they have no big crews backing them up.

 

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 12 | A game of cat and mouse | Jan 13, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

As the Dakar Rally hits Peru, multiple Dakar champions Cyril Despres and Marc Coma are playing a high-speed game of cat and mouse...

Stage Eleven – Arica to Arequipa

The Dakar Rally is breaking fresh ground in Peru but the battle in the bike race remains the same old story. The game of cat and mouse between multiple Dakar champions Cyril Despres and Marc Coma was once again played full pace on the path through the stunning Douth American country.

“Marc and I had a real tough battle today and we swapped the lead several times out there. I was finally able to get in front at the finish of the second timed special stage. If it carries on like this with the two of us taking back two minutes from each other on alternate days, the race will stay exciting. I think it makes the competition great for the spectators but things get really nerve wracking for us.” – Cyril Despres

“We had a real mixture of terrain out on the stage, there were earthy, sandy and stony sections dotted all over the route. I’m still trying my utmost to win this race and I have three days left to give it everything. It’s difficult to define a strategy when Cyril is riding flat out in front but I’m glad I can follow him. I won’t always be going flat out but that doesn’t mean the pace won’t be quick, just like it has been since the beginning of the race.” – Marc Coma.

Over in the car race, there is also no let up on the pressure Giniel de Villiers is putting on himself. The South African has battled his way into a podium position which is a remarkable feat considering he is driving a Toyota Hilux on its Dakar debut.

“It was another good day for us and we moved up one place in the overall standings to get on the podium. We’ve now reached Peru but we’re still a long way away from calling this the final straight. The whole team needs to stay focused on maintaining our position now and getting us to the finish line in good shape. Reaching the end of this thing in any position on the leaderboard will feel like a win for us. First we have to finish the stages that still lay ahead of us.” – Giniel de Villiers

There was finally some cause for celebration for Team Kamaz on the 11th stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally. The first-ever stage of the desert classic to be raced in Peru was won by Andrey Karginov in truck #509. The Russian trucker remains in fourth place in the overall standings as he prepares an assault on the podium places in the final few days of the race.

It looks like it will be back-to-back Dakar victories for Argentinian quad biker Alejandro Patronelli. Last year’s champion holds a lead of over an hour from the second place quad, driven by his brother Marcos.

Dakar Digit: 110.4 or 1 hour, 50 minutes and 40 seconds

American racer Robby Gordon’s dream of winning the Dakar in his Hummer looks to be officially over for another year. Robby had ignored the threat of disqualification from the race to carry on over the border to Peru but a mechanical problem on stage 11 proved to be the final straw. Robby was well in the mix at the business end of the standings but finished today’s stage 1 hour, 50 minutes and 40 seconds behind race leader Stephane Peterhansel. Better luck next year Robby!

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Cyril Despres | Nerve-Wracking Racing | Jan 13, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril’s game of cat and mouse with Marc Coma at the top of the leaderboard carried on along the eleventh stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally...

The day started with me getting a bath in a stream as I pushed the bike along the track. After that it was another hard day but, apart from a small crash I had at low speed, I’m pleased with how the stage went.

There was a modification to today’s roadbook and that meant one of the tracks wasn’t very visible. I rode 100 metres too far at one point but then I saw that Marc was turning around and coming back. Marc started two minutes ahead of me today so it was good to catch up with him.

'If it carries on like this, the race will be very exciting.'

Once again, Marc and I had a really tough battle and we swapped the lead several times out there. I was finally able to get in front at the finish of the second timed special stage. If it carries on like this with the two of us taking back two minutes from each other on alternate days, the race will be very exciting. I think it makes the competition great for the spectators but things get really nerve wracking for us.

Apart from attacking and riding the best stage possible, there wasn’t much more I could do today. An important development might be if someone can move in between Marc and myself on the stage. I see Gerard Farres Guell actually finished second on today’s stage so that’s not good for me. Tomorrow will be another complicated stage and anything can still happen at this Dakar.

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Giniel de Villiers | Over The moon | Jan 13, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers cemented his place on the podium after breaking fresh ground with the Dakar on stage 11’s path through Peru...

There was a lot of bumpy ground out there and it was a very tricky day all around. A very difficult stage to get into any kind of rhythm on. It was very tight on the stage and there was all this fesh-fesh, I’ve never seen so much in my life. It was incredible and so slippery when you broke and turned.

The stage was split into two timed sections, the first part was tricky enough and then things got really intense on the second half. Robby [Gordon] passed us with all his Hummer horsepower but we caught up with him at the end of the first part of the day. It looked like he had a problem that cost him quite a bit of time.

'I was blown away by my first views of Peru - it was like we were racing on the moon!'

The second part of the stage was super tricky and technical. We had to climb up a big canyon and the four-wheel drive of our Toyota Hilux was a definite help. As we came to the end of the stage, we were found ourselves amongst a million big rocks. On the rare occasion the pressure to avoid all the obstacles was off, we had a look around and I was blown away by my first views of Peru - it was like we were racing on the moon!

It was another good day for us and we moved up one place in the overall standings to get on the podium. We’ve now reached Peru but we’re still a long way away from calling this the final straight. The whole team needs to stay focused on maintaining our position now and getting us to the finish line in good shape. Reaching the end of this thing in any position on the leaderboard will feel like a win for us. First we have to finish the stages that still lay ahead of us.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 13 | Nasca - Pisco – Video | Jan 13, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The penultimate stage of this year’s Dakar Rally - from Nasca to Pisco - will give us a good idea of the final standings. The competitors will once again have to conquer several strings of Dunes and stay very focused they fight to not lose their way in the almost identically looking valleys. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 13 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Video Highlights | Stage 10 | Jan 12, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 10 of the Dakar saw American Robby Gordon getting everything out of his Hummer during a neck-and-neck race with overall leader Stephane Peterhansel, in the Quads the dominant Patronelli brothers finally got beaten and in the trucks the KAMAZ team seem to be pursued by bad luck. Catch all the highlights in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | The more difficult the stage the better | Jan 12, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers looks set for a podium finish following the disqualification of Robby Gordon and his Hummer. The South African prefers to focus on his own efforts on stage 10 of the 2012 Dakar Rally than worry about the misfortunes of others.

What we got out there today was the toughest stage of this race so far. It was really tricky at the beginning with all those rocks and fesh-fesh out there. Dirk and myself had to stay really sharp to keep things going.

When we hit the dunes we ended up losing a lot of visibility and not being able to see what was coming added to the overall difficultly of the stage. All this dust was flying up, there were patches of soft sand just waiting to trap us and over the rocky patches things got really bumpy. While all this was going on it was also the toughest day in terms of navigation as well so Dirk had his hands full with that.

'Our Toyota ran like a dream again'

We had the benefit of really having a good look at the roadbook last night and I think that helped us to avoid any mistakes out on the stage. Our Toyota ran like a dream again so we have absolutely no complaints on that front.

Throughout this race we’ve had no technical issues to worry about from a reliability point of view. That’s really excellent considering it’s this car’s first ever Dakar. We do lack the power and performance to compete right at the top of things but like I keep saying we’re looking towards the future.

We’re running with a standard engine compared to what the Minis have under their hood so with this in mind we’re doing just fine. We’ve tried to push whenever possible and today’s stage suited us better than the others we’ve had in Chile. It was definitely not easy but that’s what we want to see more of. The more difficult the stage, the better it is for us.

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Marc Coma | Time for a triple check | Jan 12, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Marc Coma trails Cyril Despres by just 21 seconds after 10 stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally. Marc tells us about his plan for the final few days of the race.

Tomorrow's stage will be a marathon stage so the approach becomes a little different. We will not have any contact with our mechanics and the only parts we will have are the ones we bring with us on the bike. This is just one more thing that we have to manage between two more very long stages in a completely new country. The mechanics get the opportunity to conserve their energy tomorrow and they deserve the chance to rest because everybody has been working so hard this year.

Tonight will be about looking over the bike with the mechanics, they will try to get it in the best shape they can. They will also tell me if there’s anything on the bike that I should take care of out on the stage. Of course we are very thorough with the bike every night but tonight we will not just double check but triple check!

'Tonight we will not just double check but triple check!'

We have experience of these marathon stages and we know we have to be smart about things. A couple of days ago we changed the engine on the bike but you still have to be aware that there will be no mechanics or spare parts at the end of tomorrow’s stage. It’s definitely another interesting element to what has become a very close contest.

This marathon stage comes between two very long stages and things will be tough, but the team are all thinking the right way. We have the correct people around, they have my confidence to do the best job they can.

There is now 21 seconds between Cyril [Despres] and myself, things will be difficult until the end. I tried to push as much as I could to recuperate the 10 minutes I lost on third day. I somehow managed to do that but still I have to keep pushing because there is no other way for me to win the race. I honestly feel that it will really difficult for me to win but we will all try our best in this team.

I will push as much as I can and maybe that will bring home the win but this is not going to be easy.

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Cyril Despres | Wait and see | Jan 12, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril has the narrowest of leads over Marc Coma as the 2012 Dakar Rally heats up towards an intense climax...

Things are getting very interesting, tomorrow night we have the middle of a marathon stage and also things are very tight at the top. There are 21 seconds between Marc and myself after 11 days of the race so it should be a very exciting finish.

To bring it back to my rugby analogy I used yesterday, each stage is like a 40 minute half of a match. Nothing will be settled after each of the remaining stages but I’ll have the chance to improve my position at least. I’m still leading the game at this moment but the game is open.

'I’m still leading the game at this moment but the game is open'

Today I was having a good stage until we hit the dunes and then I made a little error. Marc caught up and past me but then he had a small problem so I could overtake him. We were changing positions back and forth through the dunes and he just managed to reach the dusty piste first. I had to follow him until the end after that and lost a couple of seconds. Maybe those seconds will be important in the end, we’ll have to wait and see. I could have taken more risks out there today but that’s not my style.

I’m happy that Rubin (Faria) is here with me after today’s stage and that I’ve been able to count on him throughout this race. We’ll talk later about what we can do about this marathon stage we have ahead of us. After looking at the roadbooks perhaps we take a decision to go out on different tyres so we have the option to swap. We are a team together, we act like a team and we feel like a team. We’ll be on that marathon stage together.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 11 | It's a marathon not a sprint | Jan 12, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

As the 2012 Dakar Rally pauses on Chile’s border with Peru there’s barely a blade of grass between Cyril Despres and Marc Coma at the top of the standings.

Stage 10 – Iquique to Arica

Tomorrow not only sees the Dakar enter its 27th new country but the bikers will also be separated from their mechanics and spare parts between the 11th and 12th stages of the race.

This marathon stage format has turned up the heat on a bike race that was already bubbling away in these intense desert conditions.

“Things are getting very interesting, tomorrow night we have the middle of a marathon stage and also things are very tight at the top. There is 21 seconds between Marc and myself after 11 days of the race so it should be a very exciting finish.” – Cyril Despres

Marc Coma took two precious minutes back on Cyril on stage 10 and will be doing everything he can to keep up his push for the lead on the marathon stage.

“Tonight will be about looking over the bike with the mechanics, they will try to get it in the best shape they can. They will also tell me if there’s anything on the bike that I should take care of out on the stage. Of course we are very thorough with the bike every night but tonight we will not just double check but triple check!” – Marc Coma

Unlike the bikers those competitors behind the wheel of a car will have contact with their mechanics after the Dakar’s first ever stage in Peru. However, up until this point the Toyota Hilux of Giniel de Villiers has needed very little tuning up. Another solid stage today kept the South African on course for a podium finish.

“We’ve tried to push whenever possible and today’s stage suited us better than the others we’ve had in Chile. It was definitely not easy but that’s what we want to see more of. The more difficult the stage, the better it is for us.” – Giniel de Villiers

It’s never a good idea to make predictions at the Dakar but Gerard de Rooj and Alejandro Patronellis lead in the truck and quad races respectively that put them odds on for top honours this year.

Dakar Digit: 11 minutes

The bright orange Hummer of Robby Gordon is one of the most unmistakable sights in the bivouac. Gordon suffered an 11-minute standstill just 60km from the end of stage 10 that saw his pursuit of the lead damaged. But that 11-minute setback was just a drop in the ocean when the American was disqualified for a technical non-compliance.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 12 | Arequipa - Nasca – Video | Jan 12, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

During Stage 12 of the Dakar 2012, from Arequipa to Nasca the competitors will have to cope with a 20 kilometre long string of dunes and even if the sand most of the time is of a firm consistence, major changes in the standings are unlikely. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 12 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Video Highlights | Stage 9 | The race heats up | Jan 11, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Catch all the video highlights from stage nine of Dakar 2012.

 

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Marc Coma | The Game Is Changing | Jan 11, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

After nine stages of Dakar 2012 three-times champion Marc Coma is neck-and-neck with race leader Cyril Despres. Marc gives us his thoughts ahead of the final push...

I’m really happy today because Cyril [Despres] started some distance back from me among the pack. This meant he had the opportunity to take back some minutes, which he did, but it’s not as bad as I expected it to be. I'm feeling cheerful because it was a very long stage today and I was the first bike out there, which meant it was my job to open the road.

It’s another stage down and I’m still feeling comfortable. There’s still plenty of racing to be done at this Dakar but until now I’ve been happy with how I’m riding. The result is still a long way from being decided, but even if I win or not I’m happy with the race I have ridden so far.

"It’s not easy to be this competitive over a long race but my team is proving that they are capable of keeping me at the top"

The whole group, including my team-mate Joan [Pedrero] and the mechanics, can be very proud of the job we are doing. Everyone is giving their best in the push towards Lima. Nobody can ask for more than that. It’s not easy to be this competitive over a long race but my team is proving that they are capable of keeping me at the top.

Some stages go to the normal plan. For example, I start first and then Cyril will catch up two minutes on me, then the next day it’s the other way around. But these long stages can throw up completely unpredictable results. You have to remember that Peru is a new country for all of us so I expect there are more surprises to come. I don’t think things will be as clear-cut, not now the game is changing.

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Cyril Despres | Let’s start | Jan 11, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril tells us about regaining his overall lead on the ninth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally...

My head was pretty clear this morning because the job I had to do on the stage was obvious to me. I needed to get out there and get some minutes back. It was foggy and dusty in the morning and it took me longer than I expected to get past some of the guys in front of me.

I had a good feeling after the 130km mark and started to push as I had planned I would do on the stage. There was a liaison route in between the two timed sections today and then the final 90km was like a motocross track. I picked up the trail of Marc’s bike and I said to myself, “Let’s start!”

If you look at the backgrounds of Marc and myself you could say that he has more experience of riding at top speed in a motocross style, but I was pleased with my performance. The word for this Dakar is unpredictable and I definitely see that carrying on as we carry on into Peru and onto the finish line.

"Now I have changed my mindset from protecting my lead to creating a new one"

A few days ago my race tactics were determined by my ten-minute lead. When those are the circumstances you find yourself in it encourages a certain caution. Then I had my problem with mud on yesterday’s stage. The race organisers gave me back some time from that incident which I think is fair. Even with some time back the final result from the stage has still made the race a lot different.

Now I have changed my mindset from protecting my lead to creating a new lead. Today I made some minutes and that is my plan for each day now. It’s like a rugby match when you have a lead you play a certain way but the tactics have to change when the scores are level.

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Giniel de Villiers | Landing on the dunes | Jan 11, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel talks about changing tactics as he keeps a steady pace through the fesh-fesh of the Atacama Desert...

We had to put up with some fast times from Stephane [Peterhansel] and Robby [Gordon] on the stage today. Those guys were ten minutes away from anyone else. It proved impossible to live with their speed today.

The stage put us in the fesh-fesh and for that type of sand you need extra torque to push on through. Once again the soft sand suited the bigger engines better than ours. It’s been like that on other days so Dirk and myself have got used to focusing on our own race. We put our effort into keeping our noses clean and making it through to the finish.

We’ve come up to Chile's north with this race in the last few years but I still find every stage interesting. Today was a really long stage and it’s hard to maintain a really intensive approach when you’re out there racing for over four and half hours. I think Dirk found the navigation a little dull because the tracks were always right in front of us.

"Today was a really long stage and it’s hard to maintain a really intensive approach when you’re out there racing for over four and half hours"

I suppose the main difference for us is that this year we are not fighting at the front where you have to protect every single second. Our mindset is a little different because of this and the focus becomes making sure you bring the car to the finish line. It’s just a different way of playing the game.

We went past Nasser [Al-Attiyah] on the stage and then we never saw him again. He’s been battling hard but it now looks like the race is over for my old team-mate. Seeing him deal with such an unreliable machine makes me grateful for having my car parked up in the bivouac at the end of each day.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 10 | Back to Basics | Jan 11, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 11 from Arica to Arequipe sees the Dakar 2012 hitting Peruvian soil for the first time. There are two special stages plus some additional mileage in store. Get a first-hand guide by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

A marathon stage through the fesh-fesh of the Atacama Desert ended by plunging the competitors from high up in the dunes to the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean...

Stage Nine – Antofagasta to Iquique

One biker not hanging around long enough to take in the sights was Cyril Despres who came out all guns blazing after yesterday’s mishap in the mud.

Said Cyril: "After a difficult day yesterday, when I started to have doubts, I had to get back to winning ways. It wasn't easy to psych myself up for it, but I'm very happy with my day's work. We came into this looking at a battle for seconds or minutes. It's very competitive. Like any top level sportsman, if you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounce of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight. But I'm up for it".

"If you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounce of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight" –Despres

It was Marc Coma’s job to open the stage so the Spaniard had little option but to allow Cyril to come back at him, only not too much.

Marc Coma had this to report: “We knew that this would be a difficult race. It was long and there was plenty of navigation to deal with. We're coming to the crunch part of the rally. Cyril is a major rival and we do battle over every single kilometre. But I think it's interesting, it's sport. Yesterday, the KTM technicians decided it was time to change our engines because we'd reached the halfway point. It's a very good idea".

After nines stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally there is only a couple of minutes separating Cyril in first place and Marc in second. Third is Helder Rodrigues, who's 45 minutes back on the dynamic duo but still feels part of the race for top spot.

Helder: “I rode at a good pace and tried to stay in contact with Marc and Cyril. If I continue like that it will be a good rally. Marc and Cyril are fighting for the standings lead and are very quick. Can they still make mistakes? Anything is possible."

The 2012 Dakar Rally ended for defending car class champion Nasser Al-Attiyah on stage nine but his team-mate Robby Gordon managed to keep pace with race leader Stephane Peterhansel.

For the fourth consecutive stage, one of the Patronelli brothers won the day on the quads, while flying Dutchman Gerard de Rooy continues to lead the truck race.

Dakar Digit: 2 hours 37 minutes 19 seconds

The closest Russian to Gerard de Rooy is Team Kamaz’s Andrey Karginov. Andrey’s Kamaz truck is over two and a half hours off the pace being set by de Rooy. Although a Kamaz truck has won nine of the last 11 editions of the Dakar it now looks as though 2012 will not be their year.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 11 | Arica - Arequipa – Video | Jan 11, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 11 from Arica to Arequipe sees the Dakar 2012 hitting Peruvian soil for the first time. There are two special stages plus some additional mileage in store. Get a first-hand guide by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Video Highlights | Stage 8 | The race heats up | Jan 10, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The final week of Dakar 2012 is under way and the race for this years titles is starting to heat up. The front runners on the bikes have already hit issues with the terrain, so we catch up with KTM’s Mohammed Balooshi who tells us about navigation.

 

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Cyril Despres | Muddy mayhem | Jan 10, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril Despres tells us about a very eventful eighth stage of the Dakar Rally that saw him lose his overall lead to Marc Coma.

After riding 10km of the special stage I got a big surprise when I fell into a massive hole in the road filled with mud. There was no warning of this obstacle in the roadbook because conditions have changed so much since the inspection car drove the route two days ago.

'I was fully covered... the handlebars, my goggles, my gloves and my navigation notes'

I was stuck there for 10 minutes as this thick mud made it almost impossible for me to get my bike back up off the ground. I was lucky that Paulo Gonçalves stopped to help me. That was really nice of Paulo to lend me a hand like that.

At the end of the stage, the race organisers decided to give me back the time I lost while I was stuck in the mud. They did this because after I got stuck they came to the area and changed the route of the stage to avoid anymore accidents in the same spot. After the stage the race organisers checked how long I had been stuck in the mud and then gave me back that time.

While I was riding I had no idea if they would give me back the time or not but there was really nothing I could do to try and push hard in the rest of the stage. I was fully covered in mud so my grip on the handlebars was really slippery, my goggles were covered, my gloves were covered and all of my navigation notes were ruined. I stopped to try and clean things but there wasn’t really much I could do about all this mud.

When I reached the refuelling point 100km after I had fallen, Rubin (Faria) helped me out. We cleaned out my radiator to prevent any real damage being done to the engine.

It would have been easy for me to panic out there after the accident but I’m glad I was able to take care of my bike and stay in the race. Now tomorrow brings a very long stage so I hope I can do my best to get back my lead at this race.

Cyril trails Marc Coma by just over a minute after the eighth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 8 | Stuck in the mud | Jan 10, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

It took no time for the 2012 Dakar Rally to fizz back to life after a well-deserved rest day in Copiapo.

Stage Eight – Copiapo to Antofagasta

After a day of rest in Copiapo, it was on to Stage Eight and things got very messy for the leading bikers at the 11km mark of the timed special stage. Cyril Despres was among those who got stuck in the mud.

“There was a torrent of mud between the inspection of the reconnaissance car two days ago and today. Therefore, it did not appear in the road book and I was the first to fall into the trap. There was no way I could have avoided it.” – Cyril Despres

Another biker to fall into the same trap as Cyril was Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues.

“Everyone thought today was going to be a calm day, but it turned out to be quite difficult. There was a lot of navigational work, especially a muddy area in a river near the beginning of the stage. Many riders got stuck in there, it was incredible. But I am still third in the general classification, and that is great.” – Helder Rodrigues

One of the front runners who kept himself clean through the early obstacle on the route was Marc Coma. Things went so well for Marc on stage eight that he ended the day with a lead of 1m 26sec over Cyril in the overall standings.

“A very long special stage. I was lucky not to lose too much time in the mud and then I saw I could open a gap, so I attacked really hard. But towards the end I noticed I had engine problems, so I slowed down a bit to ensure I would make it to the finish. This is my 20th special victory: a nice figure. Yet it is not winning specials that counts, but winning the race. I know there is still a long week of racing ahead.” – Marc Coma

Giniel de Villiers showed no signs of rust after the rest day as he once again got the most out of his Toyota Hilux to keep himself at the business end of the leaderboard.

“After a week and a day of the Dakar we’re 37 minutes back on the race leader Stephane Peterhansel. In Dakar terms that’s not an insurmountable lead, when I won the Dakar in 2009 I was 41 minutes down at one point. A lot of things can still happen out there and I think there’s six drivers who will be telling themselves they can still win this thing. I’m happy to say I’m part of that group.” – Giniel de Villiers

Over in the truck race there was again no sign of Russian resurgence from Team Kamaz while Argentinian brothers Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli dominated the quad race.

Dakar Digit: 86

As the 2012 Dakar Rally revs up in its final week, the gap between Marc Coma and Cyril Despres stands at just 86 seconds. It remains anyone’s guess which of these legends of the deserts will be celebrating their fourth Dakar crown in Lima.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 10 | Iquique - Arica – Video | Jan 10, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 10 of the Dakar 2012, from Iquique to Arica, will lead the competitors through a beautiful landscape, combining dunes and the waves of the Pacific. Apart from enjoying the scenic beauty, the competitors have to face the demanding fesh-fesh area which marks the end of the special stage. Get a preview of stage 10 from Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Chris Birch | Bringing banter to the bivouac | Jan 10, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

New Zealand’s Chris Birch tells us about his latest ride at the desert classic...

It was not the best day for me today because the thing was all about pure speed and that’s not really my style of riding. There were guys really flying along in the dust and it was a bit too kamikaze for me at certain points. I’m just happy to get the day down and to be back at the bivouac looking forward to having another crack tomorrow.

I’m hoping for a more technical day tomorrow with some interesting navigational challenges. Today was all about clocking up 150kmph for 20 minutes at a time and for me that’s something totally different to what riding motorbikes means to me. It was so mentally intense to be riding like that.

'You know that one little rock is all it takes to totally clean you out!'

Getting acclimatised to the speed is something that I’m learning during this Dakar and I’m also starting to trust myself more with the navigation. I’ve still got a long, long way to go but it’s definitely getting there. It’s been a rapid progression because in the first few days I was just following dust and hoping for the best, now I happy to take the lead when I’m riding in a pack.

One thing I do seemed to have cracked pretty early is the banter that goes on in the bivouac. I’m spending plenty of time out on the course and in the camp with my team-mate, Darryl Curtis. It’s important to talk about the good and bad things that can happen in a day and have a laugh so things aren’t always so super serious. Darryl was riding with me today until he started feeling his age towards the end of the day and had to drop back a bit.

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Giniel de Villiers | Six of the best | Jan 10, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers showed no signs of rust after the rest day as he once again got the most out of his Toyota Hilux to keep himself at the business end of the leaderboard...

It’s always nice to get back into the race and start the second week of the Dakar. The stage today was a lot faster than I thought it would be out there. It started off tricky with plenty of little sections designed to keep us on our toes but after that it was just flat out speed.

Because we lack a little of the horsepower and torque of the Mini we inevitably suffered when the stage became about pure speed. I was hoping it was going to be more twisty on the stage but when they deal us a load of straight sections we just can’t compete with the speed of the Minis or the Hummers

'A lot of things can still happen out there and I think there’s six drivers who will be telling themselves they can still win this thing'

I’m going to go and get my hands on the roadbook for tomorrow’s stage now and keep my fingers crossed that it’s a day with plenty of twists and turns. To be in our position with a new car at the Dakar Rally is no mean feat so it’s easy to stay positive about things at the moment. Each day is getting me more and more excited about next year’s race when all the cars will be required to run with a standard engine. The engine we our using now is built to those requirements so hopefully we’ll benefit from being one step ahead of the game.

After a week and a day of the Dakar we’re 37 minutes back on the race leader Stephane Peterhansel. In Dakar terms that’s not an insurmountable lead, when I won the Dakar in 2009, I was 41 minutes down at one point. A lot of things can still happen out there and I think there’s six drivers who will be telling themselves they can still win this thing. I’m happy to say I’m part of that group.

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Stage 5 and 7 Video Highlights | Bare Necessities | Jan 9, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

At this stage of Dakar 2012 the number of contenders for the title in each category will be reduced to a small handful.

 

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Marek Dabrowski | Sat down in the dunes | Jan 9, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Marek Dabrowski licks his wounds on the rest day as he prepares to do battle with the second week of the 2012 Dakar Rally...

The rest day is all about recovery for the team and myself, the first week of this Dakar has been punishing for all of us. On yesterday’s stage I fell off my bike and hurt myself quite badly. When I crashed I still had 400km to ride so it was a really tough day and this rest day could not have come at a better time.

I was riding quite steadily and passing a few other guys before I was thrown off my bike and bashed my knee on the ground. I was careful to protect the bike from becoming damaged but that meant that I felt the full impact when I hit the ground. There was a film crew on the spot where I came off the bike and I’m not looking forward to watching the footage of the crash.

Picking up this injury to my right knee made the rest of the stage a real struggle and especially difficult when I reached the dunes. When you’re riding up the side of a steep dune it’s important to stand up on the bike to help push yourself along. The pain in knee was so much that it was impossible for me to stand up. Because of these problems with balance and momentum there were times on the stage when my bike was turning around when I was climbing the dunes. I just had to do whatever I could to get through the day and reach the finish line.

It was a better day for my team mate Jacek (Czachor) and he is solidly inside the top 20 now so we’ll aim to help him to keep improving his position. We are building our focus on this during the rest day and doing our best to avoid some of the things that happened in the last week. It was so tough to wave goodbye to Kuba (Przygonski), my other team mate, after his race ended so early after he had spent all year working so hard.

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Eduard Nikolaev | Tears flood the desert | Jan 9, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Kamaz trucker Eduard Nikolaev came to the 2012 Dakar Rally with great expectations after taking over the seat of the legendary Vladimir Chagin. We caught up with Eduard on the rest day to hear how his race came to an early end.

I’m feeling very unsatisfied because I’m here looking at my friends who are still driving in the race. I wish I was still able to participate because that is what I came here to do. We are here at Copiapo surrounded by all these magnificent dunes but I’ve been prevented from racing on them. I’m so sad that my race is over that I could cry.

It was the proudest moment of my life when I got the news that my team had trusted me to drive truck #500 at the Dakar Rally. This is the truck that Vladimir Chagin, the Tsar of the Desert, used to create history at this race. I was looking forward to carrying on that winning tradition. I was aspiring to make Vladimir and the rest of the team proud of my performance. Unfortunately none of that is possible now because my race has finished much sooner than I hoped it would.

'I’m so sad that my race is over that I could cry'

The reason for my disqualification is a small accident we had with one of the cars out on a stage in the first week of the race. At the end of the stage the race organisers told us that we had not offered the necessary help to the guys in the car. The truth is that my crew of Sergey Savostin and Vladimir Rybakov and myself did everything we could to help the two guys in the car. This was proved when the car’s driver Marcos Di Palma told the race organisers that we had done everything we could to help him and we only left the scene when we knew there had not been a serious injury. Even with this evidence my truck, my crew and myself have been disqualified from the race.

It’s such a disappointing way for my race to finish because the first week of this Dakar was so tough for the team. This disqualification is my lowest ever moment at the Dakar. Despite this unfortunate event the rest of team are now getting ready to really attack the second week of the race. I know the guys have all the ability they need to get Kamaz back to the top of the leaderboard. All I can do is start my preparations for next year’s Dakar a little earlier than expected.

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Unsung heroes of the Dakar Rally | Ben Gott: The service truck driver | Jan 9, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Our series of unsung heroes continues as we talk mud, sweat and gears with the driver of Imperial Toyota’s service truck. Ben Gott fills us in on his history with the Dakar and his big plans for next year.

I didn’t really ever stand a chance of not getting involved in motorsport because my dad is a racer and as a kid I spent a lot of time going around the circuits in the UK. As soon as I was old enough to get my licence I jumped in with him as a navigator. That was about 15 years ago and since then I’ve been enjoying my own adventures within the sport.

I got my first taste of the Dakar about a decade ago when I was invited to join a French team after I had done some off-road racing over there. I didn’t have to be asked twice, I jumped at the chance! Since then I have worked on the Dakar doing nearly ever job there is. The only thing I haven’t done yet is race a car but I plan to do that next year.

This year I’m driving the service truck for the Imperial Toyota team, it’s a new team but they have Giniel de Villiers racing for them and things are going good up until this point. I’m driving a Man X75 Drop’s Truck, there are only four of these in the world. My truck is the first vehicle to arrive at the bivouac because I need to have all the supplies in place by the time our cars come in after finishing the stage.

'I have worked on the Dakar doing nearly ever job there is'

There’s a lot of early starts and it’s not always easy guiding the truck through the Andes Mountains. I’m not complaining though, the Dakar is never going to be a picnic!

Before coming to South America I’ve been working hard on a project for the 2013 Dakar Rally. I’ll be driving a car with a team I’ve helped put together for the charity Road 2 Recovery. The charity helps injured servicemen get behind the wheel and next year the guys are going to enter four QT Wildcats into the race. I can’t wait for these guys to get over here and get racing, they’ve already done some testing and things are failing into place for next year.

Entering a team into the Dakar Rally is not cheap but the guys are getting lots of help. They were on [UK television show] Top Gear last year and things like this are helping to increase interest in what we are doing. Hopefully with these British servicemen coming to the Dakar we can help boost the profile of this great race back home.

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Marc Coma | Meeting Lionel Messi | Jan 9, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

As Marc Coma continues to hunt down Cyril Despres at the summit of the leaderboard, we found the only topic that can take his mind off the Dakar. Marc tells us about his love for FC Barcelona.

When I’m at home and relaxing in the evening I will watch any football that is on television but there’s no feeling like watching my own team. I was born and raised in Catalonia and I still live there now so I think it’s pretty natural that I’m a fan of Barcelona.

We have just won the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan and I don’t think anyone can doubt that we are the best team around at the moment.

It’s not happened over night and there were many years of hard work for the club to get to where they are now. We had to watch the success of Real Madrid while our team was being rebuilt and it was not always easy.

Now we have a team with a great spirit and all the new signings seem to enjoy getting involved in what we do at Camp Nou. From my experience in Enduro riding I know that staying at the top is much harder than getting there in the first place.

It’s good that Barcelona’s manager Pep Guardiola gets a lot of credit for the wonderful work that he does with the team. Pep is also part of a great team because the club has many very talented people working in important positions.

'Unfortunately I’m not quite as good at football as Messi. In fact I suck!'

My racing schedule means that I don’t get to go to Camp Nou as much as I would like but I’m a member of the club and I have two season tickets. Because I’m away from home so often I have lots of friends and family who are happy to use my seats when I’m not there! We have a clasico match again Espanyol this weekend, I’m hoping for a good result there and for me in this Dakar also.

We are very lucky at Barcelona to have Lionel Messi on our team and it’s great to be in his country racing the Dakar Rally once more. I was invited onto the pitch at Camp Nou before the kick-off of the game between Barca and Atletico Madrid. I got the chance to meet Messi and we talked after the game. There’s really nothing more anyone can say about the talent he has that hasn’t already been said a thousand times.

Unfortunately I’m not quite as good at football as Messi. In fact I suck! My thing is my bike so I’ll just to stick to that I think.

Marc is using the rest day of the 2012 Dakar Rally to prepare himself for the final week of the race that he hopes will end with victory in Lima.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 9 | Antofagasta - Iquique – Video | Jan 9, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 9 of the Dakar 2012 from Antofagasta to Iquique is separated in two parts and leads the competitors to the north of the South American continent. After crossing several canyons in the first part, the second section will exercise the racers' navigational skills as the route along the Pacific provides limited points of orientation. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 9 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | Testing times in the desert | Jan 8, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers has brought his Toyota Hilux to the halfway point of the 2012 Dakar Rally. Giniel tells us about a satisfying stage and plenty of positives for the future...

We had a good day overall, the first part of the stage was particularly well suited to our car. We went well during that section and clocked up a nice time. The second half of the day was very sandy and that exposed some of the work we still need to do on the car. The engine we’re using hasn’t got the same torque as the Minis so the couple that I overtook earlier in the day went past me when we hit the rough stuff.

Nasser (Al-Attiyah) came past me as well at an incredible speed, it was unbelievable the way he came shooting past us. He started just behind us today but managed to beat us by 20 minutes on the stage. We had to eat a bit of dust today but I’m still happy with how the car ran. We learnt a lot out there about improvements we need to make to the car for the future. Dirk got his navigation spot on and I was happy with my driving so it’s satisfying way to reach the halfway point.

'We had to eat a bit of dust today but I’m still happy with how the car ran'

Now we’ve reached the rest day there’s been a relaxed halftime team talk from Glyn Hall our boss. We could have been 15 minutes closer to the top of the leaderboard if we didn’t get stuck the other day but on the whole things have been running smoothly.

We know we can’t compete with the Mini over these conditions at the moment but there’s plenty to be positive about. Our car is built inline with the new regulations that will come into play at next year’s Dakar, our plan has always been long term. Because this is our first time taking this car to the Dakar we are using this race as testing session as well as doing our best to clock up some decent times.

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Cyril Despres | A matter of respect | Jan 8, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cyril Despres tells us about his time in the dunes of Copiapo as he conceded a little of his overall lead to Marc Coma, but not too much...

I’m coming to the Dakar to fight for the lead and for first place so when yesterday’s stage was cancelled it was not a good feeling. Today I was happy to fall back into a fast rhythm.

I knew that Marc would be out to get some time back on me on today’s stage and that the dunes of Copiapo would be an intense riding experience. Marc eventually caught up with me after 200km and I let him past. It’s not my job to open the stage and go crazy trying to push through the desert with no clues in front of me to help find the right path.

As soon as Marc reached me I knew his time would be two minutes faster than me for today’s stage but that is the benefit of starting the day with an overall lead of 10 minutes. I made sure that I kept Marc in my sights for the remaining 200km of the stage because of course I don’t want to lose all of my lead.

'Coming down the side of the dunes was like being on a rollercoaster ride'

The riding on the second part of the stage was good fun and I was glad to be back in the dunes of Copiapo. It’s not the hardest Dakar stage I have done at Copiapo but it’s never going to be easy. They always manage to keep us guessing about what we will find out there. They sent us to the biggest dunes in the area today and coming down the side of them was like being on a rollercoaster ride at an amusement park.

It was a relaxing ride for me to be able to follow Marc through this section and keeping up with his speed was an enjoyable test. When we came to the end of the stage he finished just before me and that’s the way it should be. He lead me through 200km of open track so the code of respect between us meant I had to let him be the first to cross the line. Marc really did a good job leading the way through some tricky valleys and finding some good racing ground.

Tomorrow on the rest day I will get some washing done, get a massage and do my best to prepare for a successful second half of the Dakar.

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Chris Birch | Another awesome day at the Dakar | Jan 8, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

New Zealand’s Chris Birch is really starting to find his feet (and the waypoints) at the Dakar Rally. Chris tells us about his latest ride at the desert classic...

I had a ton of fun out on that stage today, it was an awesome day. The riding was a bit more technical and a bit closer to what I’m used to so that helped me to get into it.

I thought I might have got a couple of my waypoints wrong along the way but when I came to the finish the lady in the tent told me I had ridden past them all. I wanted to give her a big hug because I couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off, I felt sure there was a time penalty coming my way.

What put the seed of doubt in my mind was the group I was riding with all went off in a different direction to me and all of a sudden I was by myself. This is my first Dakar so I’m not that clued up on navigation in the dunes I thought the odds are that I’m the one that’s gone wrong. Then at the end of the stage I found out I got it right, so who knows where all those other guys are right now!

'I wanted to give her a big hug because I couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off'

The coolest part of the stage for me was this waypoint that was hidden behind one the dunes. If you had come up over the dune and piled down the other side you could have missed it and had to go all the way back up this really steep sand. Luckily I hit the waypoint and then went full tilt down the side of the dune without a worry in my mind. I talked to a guy at the end of the stage and he said that getting back to that waypoint after missing it had cost him an hour.

It was a fun ride and I’m over the moon with my navigation on today’s stage. Riding the Dakar really is something else, the emotions after each day are so extreme. When you’ve had a bad day you think to yourself why have I invested so much cash in this stupid race. When the day goes well it gets you so pumped you’re just left itching to get out there again.

On the rest day I want to spend some time with a group of guys who have travelled from South Africa to support the team I’m riding with. They might not be waving my flag but I’m grateful for their support all the same.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 8 | Copiapó – Antofagasta – Video | Jan 8, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

 

Stage 8 of the Dakar 2012 from Copiapó to Antofagasta will not bring about major changes in the ranking since most of the competitors will take the chance to get back into pace after the rest day. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 8 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

 

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Mohammed Balooshi | Bad Altitude | Jan 7, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

While crossing the border between Argentina and Chile we came across the bike of Mohammed Balooshi parked up beside an ambulance. We looked inside to find the biker from the UAE taking on oxygen after struggling with the altitude of 4700 metres above sea level

It’s been a strange last night and morning all-round with the cancellation of stage six. I was aware we would be going up into the clouds today and I was feeling good along the stretch of road we covered this morning. Then I had to stop to show my passport to the Argentinian customs people and that’s when I started to feel funny.

I felt it immediately when I got off my bike, I couldn’t walk, think or do anything. Where I am now is a further 500 metres up from the customs checkpoint. I was really feeling terrible so when I saw the ambulance I had to pull over and see what they could do for me.

When I got off the bike this last time I was really feeling terrible, I can never remember feeling this bad in my life. Everyday it has been a new thing for at this race. Yesterday I had a bee fly into my ear and I had to stop until a doctor came to help me take it out, it’s all happening to me!

I can’t even bear to look at all these snowy mountains up here because I just want to get out of here as soon as possible. It’s beautiful landscape but the sooner I reach some lower ground the less risky it will be.

Another thing at the back of mind is disappointment that today’s stage was cancelled because I was really hoping to come into my own today. As I was filling out my roadbook last night I was getting a good feeling about things because I was seeing dunes, dunes and more dunes. That’s the sort of terrain I’m confident on rather than what we’ve had so far in Argentina.

All these things must be happening for a reason and I know that I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the coming stages to ride the dunes. Now have to say thanks to these lovely Argentinian doctors I have found who gave me their oxygen mask to use, I now have the feeling back in my fingers and toes!

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Kuba Przygonski | On the plane home | Jan 7, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

The Orlen Team lost an important cog in their well-oiled machine when Kuba Przygonski was forced to retire on stage three after his engine exploded. Kuba’s latest unfortunate exit comes after he broke his hand three days before last year’s race and was unable to compete. We got the thoughts of Kuba before he flew back to Poland from Copiapo...

'I think it will be easier for me to put my retirement from the race behind me if I’m at home'

It still hurts a lot for my race to have ended the way it did, it’s been a couple of days but I’m still very upset about what happened. To try and stay positive about things I must think about next year and doing everything I can to finally prove my ability at this race.

Last year after I had my accident with my hand I came to the Dakar and worked as a journalist. I have been offered this work again but I want to be a successful biker and not a TV reporter. I want to be in the race and not outside the race looking in, for this reason I have booked a flight back to Poland from Copiapo.

I think it will be easier for me to put my retirement from the race behind me if I’m at home. I will still be supporting my Orlen team-mates but my job here was to ride a bike. My bike is out the race so if I stay around I’ll just be getting under people’s feet.

I will do much more work for next year’s race because I’m really desperate now to show my true level of ability at the Dakar. I did a lot of preparation before this year’s race but now I will do even more. I will test more bikes, learn more about the mechanics of the machine, enter more races and do everything else that will help me improve.

If something like this happens again next year I really won’t know what I will do. Until the race in 2013 I will work as hard as I can to avoid another disappointment.

As 26-year-old Kuba flies home to Poland we wish him all the best and remain confident he will have many successful trips to the Dakar in the future.

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Cyril Despres | Last-minute adjustments | Jan 7, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

The last minute cancellation of the sixth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally saw Cyril Despres take an unexpected day off from racing...

There was no timed special on Friday because of the severe warnings that had worried the race organisers. What we got was a long, long 600km liaison stage with no racing.

Because there was no timed stage it means that my 10-minute lead remains intact but it’s a shame to lose a day’s racing. I worked hard last night preparing for today’s stage, it looked like it was going to be a lot of fun actually.

'When you are told very late that you can’t race it’s like stopping a horse that is already in full flow!'

Crossing over the Andes at 4700 metres above sea-level offers up great scenery but riding 600km is draining on the body as well. We knew we were just going straight to the bivouac with no timed special stage so my mind was wandering to the next stage and the rest day. When you ride the liaison to a timed stage you can think of nothing else but the race that is about to happen, that’s the way I prefer it.

It’s all a bit confusing at the moment because I have arrived at the bivouac in Copiapo before the rest of my team. Usually everybody else gets here before me because I have three hours of racing to negotiate. It’s a disruption to the rhythm that I have worked so hard to built up at this race. Finding your rhythm is the key to a successful Dakar, not just on the bike but also in the bivouac at the beginning and the end of each day.

Despite all this tomorrow we will start again and I’m ready to ride on! I remember having some fun in the dunes around Copiapo in other Dakar races.. I’m checking out the roadbook now, it looks like another good one.

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Giniel de Villiers | Hoping for double trouble in Copiapo | Jan 7, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

After stage six was scrubbed out due to bad weather Giniel looks forward to getting his foot down again after arriving in Chile...

In other years of the Dakar in South America the moment you cross from Argentina to Chile has been a key point of the race. The first few stages have given shape to the leaderboard and all the drivers know what they have to do to maintain or improve their position.

[Co-driver] Dirk (von Zitzewitz) and myself were looking forward to giving it a real go out there today but then we got the news that stage six had been cancelled. You can’t really blame the race organizers for exercising caution with all those lives at stake.

We took the chance to enjoy the views from the top of the Andes but now our minds are totally into tomorrow’s stage. We came here to race and being forced to take a day off has us itching to get out there on stage seven. Tomorrow’s 500km special stage is split in two so even if we didn’t get to race today at least we get a double run tomorrow.

My former team-mate Nasser (Al-Attiyah) starts behind us tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing how things work out. We have already seen the speed of Nasser’s Hummer this year and we all know his ability of driving in the dunes. We expect to see him at some point during the day and in a best-case scenario we can push each other up the rankings. My co-driver, Dirk, has already told me there’s no way we’re going to let Nasser get past us!

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Daily Dakar Diary |Day 6 | Safety in numbers | Jan 7, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The cancellation of the sixth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally led to a strange series of events as the desert classic crossed from Argentina to Chile.

Stage Six – Fiambala to Copiapo

The day started with the entire fleet of competitors setting off in a convoy from Fiambala. The plan was to give a sense of safety in numbers against the torrential weather warnings that the race organisers had been receiving. On arrival in Copiapo the competitors were then left to fend for themselves as they waited many an hour for their service crews to complete their own perilous path through the Andes.

Despite the spectacular scenery on show from 4700 metres above sea-level along el Paso de San Francisco there was an obvious sense of anticlimax with no timed racing taking place.

“Yesterday was the first time I finished a stage feeling really happy with the job I had done. Later that night I was just drifting off to sleep when someone shouted into the tent that today’s stage had been cancelled. I was gutted because it was looking like a kick ass stage but I ended up getting a full night’s sleep for the first time since I got here. Now I’ll be fresh to get stuck in tomorrow.” – Chris Birch

One biker who was smiling all the way through the long liaison stage was Chaleco Lopez as he looks forward to once again racing the Dakar Rally in his native Chile.

“Coming home with the Dakar has been the highlight of my year for a while now. After the crash I suffered in Tunisia this has been the happiest I have ever been to come to Chile with the race. My country has everything you need to host great Enduro riding and the dunes of Copiapo are going to be great fun tomorrow.” – Chaleco Lopez.

You could be forgiven for thinking that one less stage to worry about would be good news for Cyril Despres and the 10 minute lead he holds at the top of the bike race. However, the Frenchman did not become a three-time Dakar winner by shirking the challenges whenever they present themselves.

“It’s all a bit confusing at the moment because I have arrived at the bivouac in Copiapo before the rest of my team. Usually everybody else gets here before me because I have three hours of racing to negotiate. It’s a disruption to the rhythm that I have worked so hard to built up at this race. Finding your rhythm is the key to a successful Dakar, not just on the bike but also in the bivouac at the beginning and the end of each day.” – Cyril Despres

One thing the lack of racing on the road out of Argentina has done is to increase the determination to make a difference when the serious business begins again.

“My former team-mate Nasser (Al-Attiyah) starts behind us tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing how things work out. We have already seen the speed of Nasser’s Hummer this year and we all know his ability of driving in the dunes. We expect to see him at some point during the day and in a best-case scenario we can push each other up the rankings. My co-pilot Dirk has already told me there’s no way we’re going to let Nasser get past us!” – Giniel de Villiers

Dakar Digit: 7

Day six of the 2012 Dakar Rally saw the race cross the Andes Mountains for the seventh time since coming to South America. Heavy storms of rain and snow in the area forced the organisers of the rally to call off any racing in the area in the interest of protecting the safety of the competitors. Yet more evidence for anyone in doubt of the very real dangers that exist for everyone involved in the desert classic.

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Adam Malysz Interview |From Ski Jumping to the Dakar | Jan 6, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

On day four of the 2012 Dakar, we got the chance to speak to one of the most interesting competitors in the car category... Ski-jumping legend Adam Malysz. Formerly nicknamed ‘The Polish Eagle’, Malysz only entered the world of rallying less than a year ago, but has already outpaced quite a few experienced competitors. Find out more about this newcomer in this video.

 

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles |Stage 7 | Copiapó - Copiapó | Jan 6, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The last stage of week one of the Dakar 2012 is a loop that starts and finishes in Copiapó. The first part of the stage seems to be easy but, after a while, the competitors will have to pay tribute to the kilometres already behind them since stage one. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 7 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers |Stuck in the sand | Jan 6, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

It was not all plain sailing for Giniel on the road to Fiambala, the South African driver tells us what went down on stage five…

The funny thing about today’s stage is that it was actually the easiest stage we have ever driven at Fiambala. The conditions out there were quite cool and the rain meant the dunes weren’t as tricky as they have been in previous years. Unfortunately, we managed to find probably the only hole in the sand on the entire stage. It was like getting caught by a needle in the haystack.

We had been travelling slightly to the right of Stephane Peterhansel’s line and we nearly made it through but just didn’t quite pull it off. We were stuck there for many minutes and it was struggle to get out. Dirk and myself got out of the car and jacked the car up five or six times before we could get it free. The sand was really soft in that place and it set us back at least 15 minutes.

After the stage, Stephane told that he was close to getting stuck in the same spot. Because we were just that little bit more over to the right it was us that got caught up with a slice of bad luck.

These things can happen in the Dakar but at least we are still there at the business end of the leaderboard. We lost some time today but there’s still plenty of ground still to cover.

A big plus we take from these five stages in Argentina is how our Toyota Hilux has held up over some testing terrain. Now I’ve got my passport stamped so I can enjoy the ride over the Andes and into Chile. The views from the top have been a real highlight of the last few editions of the Dakar.

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Chris Birch |Collision course to Chile | Jan 6, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

New Zealand’s Chris Birch is battling against the Dakar Rally for the first time. Here’s what the Kiwi biker has been making of things so far…

The race has come to the end of the first country and I’m still here and ready to ride into Chile tomorrow. It’s been a bit touch and go at times, especially yesterday when I had a massive crash. Some guy tried to pass me in the dust and just cleaned me out. There was about €1,500 worth of damage done to the bike and I had to rejoin the oil cooler out on the track. I was out there for a while playing mechanic on the stage, but I’m still standing and hopefully Chile will be a bit kinder to me.

I got a quick look at the guy who crashed into me, I know the model of bike he’s on but I haven’t yet figured out his number. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for him because that sort of thing shouldn’t really be happening at any race. I think it was one of the frontrunners who got lost and was giving it full throttle trying to get his position back. This might be my first Dakar but I know that riding in a panic like that is not the best way to go about things.

Today, I started right at back because of yesterday’s crash but I really enjoyed the stage. I got my first real taste of the soft dunes, it’s a terrain I’d never ridden before in my life. I happy to have my KTM 450cc Rally because it’s definitely the machine for these type of conditions.

Now tomorrow’s stage has been cancelled, it looks like we’re going to have two rest days. That’s a bit of a shame because I was feeling that I’d just got started in this race today. The original plan was to travel to the start of stage overnight and that would have meant I missed the views from the top of the mountain. At least now I can take it easy and enjoy the spectacular views I’ve been hearing about. I had some tough times in Argentina but I’m glad to have raced through some stunning scenery.

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Cyril Despres |Take it as it comes | Jan 6, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Another stage win for Cyril Despres helped him to re-establish a 10-minute lead over Marc Coma at the top of the standings. Hear how the Frenchman stayed on course for a fourth Dakar title…

One thing I've learnt from my experiences of racing in Argentina is not to expect anything from a stage. Today should have been a tricky stage but it wasn’t, two days before it was supposed to be easy and it was really tough.

If the race was in France, I could tell you a week before the stage what we will find out on the racetrack but this is not my country so I just have to guess at what I’ll find out there.

I was talking to a few guys who had come over from Chile to watch the race and I asked them what I should expect to find when we race in their country tomorrow. Some of the guys told me it will be cold, some said it will be hot and other people said there will even be snow. I’ll just have to race the conditions I find when I get there.

I ended today with another stage win and now I leave Argentina with a 10-minute lead. I’m also leaving this country with a few bumps and bruises. Today I took a second to look down at the roadbook and the branch of a tree crashed into my nose. There was lots of blood running down over my mouth but it looked a lot worse than it is. It would have been worse if the cut had been above my eyes but thankfully my goggles and helmet protect me against that.

The insole for my boot that I lost yesterday will stay behind in Argentina because it seems nobody found it out on the road by Chilecito. It’s not an essential piece of kit but I do miss it. It’s nice to my kit symmetrical, I have two knees pads, two back protectors, two camel bags. Everything is a pair like Noah’s Ark! But it’s okay, I’m going to improvise something else to put in the boot - if you can’t find a solution for a little problem like this then the Dakar is probably not the place for you.

Tomorrow we enter Chile and I hope I can maintain this lead as we get deep into the Atacama Desert.

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Adam Malysz |Flying again| Jan 6, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Adam Malysz’s 2012 Dakar Rally continues as the Polish ski-jumper turned endurance rider travels through South America. Adam tells us about going back to his roots by getting his Mitsubishi to fly through the air…

It was a real taste of the Dakar for us on the fifth stage today because the car ended up sitting on its roof during the race. For this reason, I think Fiambala is going to stay in my mind for a long time. The accident didn’t happen in the dunes where we had been warned to take it easy but just on the fringes of the desert.

Just after our crash, lots of local people appeared who were watching the race but unluckily for us none of them had a car with them. We tried to push the car back onto its wheels by hand but that was impossible. After a little while, a race fan arrived in a pick-up truck and he gave us a tow to a place where we could flip our car back onto its wheels.

When the car flew up in the air and we landed upside down, we were worried that our race was over. To be honest, I thought I had left flying through the air behind me when I retired from ski-jumping!

Once we had flipped the car around, however, I was happy with how things went and how we coped with racing through the dunes.

We definitely tested the strength of our Mitsubishi Pajero and the car is hardly scratched, even though we sat it on its roof. More important than any superficial damage to the car is the engine and that has served us very well so far. The car has brought us to the end of every stage and now we have two days without racing to look under the hood. To be honest, I don’t think we’ll be very busy with the car because things have gone so well. This is a car that has won the Dakar before and has been tested extensively in these kind of conditions.

When I was ski-jumping, I managed to maintain a high level of performance because of the experience I had collected over the years. Here at the Dakar, I’m a novice starting from the beginning. I’m really happy to still be in the race and I’m more determined than ever to get the car to Peru.

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Dirk Von Zitzewitz |Unsung hero of the Dakar Rally | Jan 5, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

In the first of our series of the Dakar Rally's unsung heroes, we give a voice to Giniel de Villiers’ co-pilot Dirk Von Zitzewitz – the German kept on track to win the 2009 Dakar with de Villiers, and he’s back in South America sitting alongside his buddy…

So far, this Dakar Rally is running very well for us, and to tell you the truth the success we’re having is a bit scary. We’re now part of a private team with our Toyota Hilux, so that meant we had to be realistic with our expectations when we came here. Now Giniel and I are sitting second after four stages and we want to stick around in that kind of position for as long as we can. The early warm-up stages are now definitely behind us and there’s no doubt we are into the real Dakar now.

My job has been pretty calm so far over this first third of the route. There have been a few moments where the right route hasn’t been obvious, but apart from that I’ve been relaxed. It’s when we head out into the desert that my skills as a navigator will really be put to the test.

Thinking back to when Giniel and I won the 2009 Dakar Rally, I remember coming back to the bivouac really pumped because of the job I had done. When you reach the challenging parts of the race, you only have a split second to make your decision

During this time, you know that a bad choice is going to cost your car some crucial time. Getting these choices right and giving the driver an advantage over the other guys is the highlight of my job.

It’s great working with Giniel, and even after Volkswagen pulled out, we were determined to stay together as a team – we just needed to find another car. It was a great day when I got the call from Giniel and he told me he had sorted something out with Toyota in South Africa. It was a short call: all he said was, “Hey buddy, we’re in!” That was all I needed to hear. We’ve been in cars together since 2006, and when you make a successful partnership in motorsport you want to carry it on for as long as possible.

Sometimes, in the car, I can’t help thinking to myself that Giniel should put his foot down and take advantage of some nice ground I have found. However, there’s other times when I’m scared witless because of the speed he has us travelling at. He might be a slightly better driver than me – but I also know for sure that he couldn’t do my job as well as I can. That’s why we’re a team!

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Stage 4 Video Highlights | Jan 5, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 4 was the longest at the Dakar Rally 2012 so far and promised to bring a few changes in the overall standings. Nine-time winner Stephane Peterhansel struck back in the cars, the Yahama quads secured their top positions, the young KAMAZ truck team showed their talent and KTM riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres led the bike race once more.

 

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Marc Coma | On The hunt | Jan 5, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Marc battled away on the fourth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally to claw back a couple of precious minutes on Cyril Despres. Marc tells us about his riding style during the day and his trailer trash lifestyle at night...

Everybody out on the stage was involved in a real battle today. Personally I wanted to push to make up some of the time I lost yesterday but in the end there was so much to deal with it was impossible to build up much speed.

I was happy with how things were going and I think I could have got more time back if I hadn’t got a leak in one of my forks, which then cut out my front break. Thankfully it was only a small problem and if that’s the biggest mechanical issue I have to deal with this year I will be happy.

I’m now in a position where I have to catch eight minutes on Cyril [Despres] so I’m focusing on finding a strong rhythm on each stage. Things were tough today and I don’t expect them to get any easier so it will be a challenge to ride as fast as I need to. Today I got back two minutes so that helps me do what I need to do but repeating that result on four or five more stages will be tough.

"Giving 100 per cent on the stage is not about just going out there and riding as fast as you can – nothing good will come from that tactic"

Giving 100 per cent on the stage is not about just going out there and riding as fast as you can – nothing good will come from that tactic. It’s about staying fully concentrated 100 per cent of the time so you know when the opportunity has come to make up some time.

One thing that is helping me out this year is my caravan. On all my other visits to the Dakar I have been in a tent. This extra bit of comfort is helping me to get a better night’s rest and feel fully prepared for each stage. I know some of the guys in the car race take hotels at night but for us bikers that is just not an option. We need to be onsite in the bivouac and this caravan is a good compromise. It’s a cool place, fully air conditioned!

Marc is currently second in the bike race and trails Cyril Despres by 8m 10s after four stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally.

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Cyril Despres | Breaking The Pain Barrier | Jan 5, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Cryil had to go against the tide to maintain his lead at the 2012 Dakar. Hear how the three-time Dakar champion lost his insole at a crossroads on the Argentinian highway...

I ended the stage having made just 1.2km of mistakes along the route and that’s a very successful day at the Dakar. Considering I opened the stage today and led the way it’s a very pleasing result because the route we took today was a total nightmare for long periods.

All the river beds along the stage were overflowing with water when normally they would be completely dry during this month. This was confusing because there were instructions in the roadbook to follow the river on the left and not the one on the right. I was looking out for these two rivers but when I arrived there were four streams of water! The extra water had created two more rivers so I had to ask myself which one I was supposed to follow. What with having to make decisions like that along a 120km stretch of riverbeds, I’m just happy I could stay on track.

"I think the Dakar has definitely become a much more technical race since it switched to South America"

I’ve actually enjoyed my previous experiences of following riverbeds on rally raids. Normally the route travels straight and you can build up some decent speed. However, on this stage it was nothing like that. The riverbeds twisted and turned every couple of metres and getting my big bike through was exhausting. I think the Dakar has definitely become a much more technical race since it switched to South America.

The finger I smashed up yesterday was still giving me trouble when I was gripping the clutch. The weird thing is that if I was at home I bet it would hurt like hell but because we're now in the Dakar I’m able to cut out the pain and concentrate on the race.

To have a lead of eight minutes after four stages is not a bad result in the early days of the Dakar, so overall I’m very satisfied. I hope to get a visitor later tonight because the insole flew out of my driving boot on the liaison stage and some fans by the side of the road promised me they would find it. I hope they do because I don’t have a spare and losing it will make me feel lopsided on the bike.

Cyril holds a lead of 8m 10s over Marc Coma as he continues his quest for a fourth Dakar title.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 6 | Fiambalá - Copiapo – Video | Jan 5, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The sixth stage of the Dakar 2012 will lead the competitors from Fiambalá to Copiapo, Chile. To get there the participants will have to face extreme variations in temperature as they have to overcome 4700 metres of the Paso San Francisco before the Chilean part of the stage will confront them with a hard terrain, in the harsh aridity of the Atacama Desert. Get a first-hand estimation of stage 6 by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | Piling on the pressure | Jan 5, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel climbed up to second on the overall leaderboard after four stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally. Hear about Giniel’s latest trip through South America’s Dakar assault course...

To be honest, I’m a little surprised to be in second place because it’s no secret that we didn’t get to test the car as much as we probably should have. It’s so far, so good, and that’s all I could have asked for of the car, my co-pilot Dirk and myself.

It was a tough day out there with plenty of tricky sections dotted around the stage. I’m pleased with the job that we did because we saw lots of other cars in all kinds of trouble.

In terms of what we can achieve in this car, I just see us putting in the effort each day and hopefully that will be enough to keep surprising people. We’re no match for the X-Raid Mini in terms of pure speed but that’s not really the deciding factor in the Dakar. If we can stay in touch like we have been we have enough experience at this thing to know that anything is possible until the final kilometre.

"If we can stay in touch like we have been we have enough experience at this thing to know that anything is possible until the final kilometre"

We're still in the early stages of the race but I’d be lying if I said I’m not having a look at the times being posted by the other cars. It’s important to us that we stay in touch with the leader, so it’s good to have a look at the classifications and see that we are right up there.

The guy ahead of us at the moment is the same guy I pegged as the man to beat at this year’s race. I’m not surprised that Stephane Peterhansel is leading – he has a solid car and a great history of winning the race. But there’s a bunch of guys chasing him down and after four days of the Dakar it's our car that’s leading that pack.

Giniel and Dirk trail Stephane Peterhansel by just over five minutes with two thirds of the Dakar Rally remaining.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 4 | The Rocky Road To La Rioja | Jan 5, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The rocky red canyons of La Rioja welcomed the 2012 Dakar Rally and served up yet another intriguing day at the desert classic...

Stage Four – San Rafael to Chilecito

The withdrawal of the Volkswagen Touareg had left Giniel de Villiers and his co-pilot Dirk Von Zitzewitz with little chance of regaining the title they won in 2009. That was until Giniel struck a last minute deal to get back in the race. The first thing Giniel did when he got his seat in the Toyota Hilux was call Dirk and say, "Hey buddy, we’re in!”

Despite having barely any time to test their new vehicle ahead of this year’s 9000km road to Peru, the duo find themselves in second place after four stages.

Said Giniel: “It was a very rocky stage but we had no real problems and were able to set a fast pace. Tomorrow we travel to Fiambalá and that’s the toughest stage of the first week. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it though because Dirk and I have travelled that route for the last three years. We’ll be using our experience and hoping to achieve another good placing.”

Over in the bike race it was the familiar faces of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma setting the pace. Between them the pair have won the last six editions of the Dakar Rally and are currently involved in another game of cat and mouse.

"Tomorrow we travel to Fiambalá and that’s the toughest stage of the first week – I’m not going to lose any sleep over it though," Giniel De Villiers

“Heavy rainfall in the area turned the stage on its head and made things super tough out there. On top of everything the heat also made today a real test. I understood Marc would be out to regain some time on me but I decided to just go at my own rhythm. I ended up losing two minutes to Marc but managed to maintain a lead of eight minutes overall," reported Cyril Despres.

“I set out at a very fast pace and tried my best to maintain it even though conditions were really tough in certain places. I was able to overtake a few bikers in front of me and take back some of the time I lost on Cyril yesterday. That’s the way things are going to be now, I just need to keep fighting everyday” said Marc Coma.

Team Kamaz are conspicuous by their absence from the podium places in the truck class as their new generation of drivers struggle to live up to the legacy of Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov. However, there’s still time for Eduard Nikolaev and the rest of the gang to catch the De Rooy trucks at the top of the leaderboard.

The quad race once again looks set to be played out between the local heroes of 2012 Dakar Rally. Argentina's Tomas Maffei leads his compatriots (and brothers) Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli at the top of the standings.

Dakar Digit: 26m 48s

There is a gap of eight minutes between race leader Cyril Despres and second place Marc Coma. Then there’s a gap of 26m 48s between Marc and third place Helder Rodrigues. After just four days of the race this figure really underlines the duo's dominance. The only question that remains is will it be Cyril or Marc that claims their fourth Dakar title?

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Stage 3 Video Highlights | The Road to the Andes | Jan 4, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Navigation and orientation are key components of the Dakar: Find out what it takes to get from start to finish on each stage. As well as all the best action from Stage 3, there's a special performance by one of the Minis.

 

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 3 | Shake and bake | Jan 4, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

There was plenty of moving and shaking in the baking heat on 2012 Dakar Rally’s soiree to San Juan. The most intriguing of the action took place in the bike category where one multiple champion displaced another at the top of the standings...

Stage three – San Rafael to San Juan

Marc Coma lead the stage after his victory on day two, but finding himself alone at the front he took a turn for the worst. He had this to say about stage three...

"At the 170km mark there was a different route for the bikes and the cars. I checked my roadbook and felt happy I was on the right track until things just didn’t tally up anymore. I went 8km in the wrong direction and a 16km detour is a lot when you’re doing your best to win the Dakar. After that I went on the attack to try and regain some of the time I had lost. In the end I lost 13 minutes to Cyril [Despres]. That’s what happens when you make mistakes. Yesterday was my day but today definitely wasn’t.”

Cyril Despres was definitely in the right place to take advantage of Marc’s slip up but it wasn't plain sailing for the Frenchman either...

“It turned out to be a good day for me but it wasn't without incident. I smashed up a finger this morning and my navigation repeater stopped working as well as my rear brake. When the rain started to fall on the stage it made the route practically invisible so I rode at a steady rhythm. All the way I thought Marc was in front but at the finish line I found out I had won. That’s my first stage win at the 2012 Dakar Rally and I hope it’s not my last.”

"All the way I thought Marc was in front but at the finish line I found out I had won. That’s my first stage win at the 2012 Dakar Rally and I hope it’s not my last" – Despres

Other big stories on day three of the bike race were the retirement of Kuba Przygonsky due to an exploding engine and a broken collar bone for Quinn Cody that ended his race.

Some bad luck with punctures cost Stephane Peterhansel his lead in the car class, with his team-mate Krzysztof Holowczyc now leading the pack. Meanwhile, the Toyota Hilux of Giniel de Villers and co-pilot Dirk Von Zitzewitz crept into third position in the overall rankings.

It may have taken until the third day for Argentina’s Patronelli brothers to stamp their authority on the quad race but they managed it on the route to San Juan. Dakar 2010 champion Marcos Patronelli won the stage with 2011 victor Alejandro Patronelli also finishing on the podium.

There’s still no sign of the big blue Kamaz machines at the top of the truck class leaderboard. Today it was Artur Ardavichus’ turn to make history as he became the first Kazakh to lead the Dakar Rally. The all-conquering Russian team are unlikely to be too upset by Artur’s result – he is, after all, driving a truck made in their factory.

Dakar Digit: 68

It was at the 68km mark of the third stage that disaster struck for Kuba Przygonsky. The young Polish rider had lived up to his billing as a podium contender on the first couple of stages of the 2012 Dakar Rally. Now the Orlen Team biker must start thinking about the next Dakar after his dreams for this year disintegrated along with his engine in the Andes.

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Cyril Despres | Back on Top | Jan 4, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

The only guy in the bivouac who seemed shocked to see Cyril Despres rise to the top of the leaderboard on day three was the Frenchman himself. Cyril explains the pleasant surprise that was awaiting him at the end of the third stage...

It was a crazy end to a day that started pretty badly for me. I damaged my finger when putting on my heavy boots this morning and it was irritating me every time I hit the clutch.

Also causing plenty of headaches were the supposedly dry riverbeds we were driving through. In the roadbook these rivers were supposed to be dried out but there was actually quite a lot of water, running through the stage in little streams. This made navigation tough, plus my compass bearing broke halfway through the stage.

If all that wasn’t enough I ended up hitting a rock and breaking my rear disc brake. Two bolts snapped completely and left me riding the last third of the stage with no back brake. When you’re riding at 3,500m above sea level and all this is happening, it definitely helps you concentrate. That’s all I did today – concentrate on riding at my own rhythm.

"When you’re riding at 3,500m above sea level and all this is happening, it definitely helps you concentrate. That’s all I did today – concentrate on riding at my own rhythm"

I was certain I was following the tracks of Marc [Coma] in front of me and at no point did I think I'd made it past him. Only over the last 5km did I notice there were no tracks in front – not the sort of tracks that a KTM 450cc bike makes, anyway.

As I arrived at the final corner I looked behind me to see the track I was leaving behind and that was when I knew I was having a good day. My eventful day proves to me how important it is to just do your own race and not worry about what anybody else is doing.

I now have a ten-minute lead over Marc but there is still such a long way to go. A lot can change but I’m also very happy to have any lead at any stage of the Dakar.

Cyril now leads the 2012 Dakar Rally by ten minutes, with Marc Coma resting in second place.

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 5 | Chilecito - Fiambalá – Video | Jan 4, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Stage 5 of the Dakar 2012 from Chilecito to Fiambalá is one of the most difficult the competitors have to cope with, and the dunes of Fiambalá, with their soft white sand, mixed with stones, have dented title hopes in previous years. The route for the cars and trucks is therefore completely different this year, but the bikes have fewer problems with such conditions... Get a first-hand look at stage 5 with Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | Keeping it solid | Jan 4, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel stayed among the pacesetters at the 2012 Dakar Rally with another solid ride. So solid in fact that he ended the day in the top three...

It was another tough stage today and I really enjoyed us having some challenges to dig our teeth into. The only thing that got on top of us was the fan inside the car cutting out and steaming up the windows.

It was a quick job to get the windscreen cleaned up and it didn’t cost us much time in the end. It was just a matter of Dirk and myself loosening our seatbelts and giving it a wipe with a bit of paper.

It’s a good sign that the car is in top shape if it could stand up to today’s stage with just a minor hiccup. The heat was well over 40°C and we were racing for just under two and a half hours. Even though we climbed and climbed the Andes the temperature did not drop at all.

Bringing this new Toyota Hilux to the Dakar is keeping us busy in the evenings because there’s so much information to report to the team and go over. We are learning new things about our machine every day – the sort of ground where we can push and other spots where it’s best to hold off. But this thing is not all about getting educated, we’re also out there to race and that’s something I never forget.

I have enough experience at this thing to know there’s still plenty of ground to cover. But we’ve made a good start – and I’d much rather have a good start than a bad one.

Giniel and his co-pilot Dirk crept up the standings on day three of 2012 Dakar Rally and now sit in third place, 1m 40s behind race leader Krzysztof Holowczyc.

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Stage 2 Video Highlights | The Real Racing Begins | Jan 3, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

After a relaxed opening stage, the KTM team reflect on their performances and look ahead to stage 2. As well as all the best action from the bikes, we also catch up with the results in the car, truck and quad categories with a very special performance by one of the defending champions.

 

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 2 | Dangers that lurk in the desert | Jan 3, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

It was the widely held belief in the bivouac this morning that today’s stage would be the moment that the 2012 Dakar Rally really shifted up through the gears. With a marathon 300km timed special stage between Santa Rosa and San Rafael over testing terrain the desert classic got into full swing.

Stage Two – Santa Rosa de la Pampa to San Rafael

The mood of anticipation at the start was tinged with sadness following yesterday’s death of Argentinian biker Jorge Andres Martínez Boero. The Dakar Rally is without doubt one of motorsport’s most dangerous pursuits, further serious incidents involving Frenchmen Bruno da Costa and Sebastian Coue today once again proved that. Both bikers ended the day in hospital after stage two demonstrated the dangers that exist in the desert.

One biker who did manage to safely complete the stage was reigning champion Marc Coma. A stage win for Marc saw him leapfrog Chaleco Lopez and top the overall leaderboard.

“Today’s stage came in two different parts. The first half was at full speed and that made it tough for me to catch Chaleco. The second part of the stage was over dunes and that caused things to become much more technical. I managed to take the lead and maintain a steady pace. Navigation becomes a tricky issue when you’re leading the pack so I’m glad I didn’t get lost. I’m happy with how the Dakar has started for me this year even if there is still a long way to go.” – Marc Coma

'I’m happy with how the Dakar has started for me this year' – Marc Coma

In close contact with Marc throughout the stage was his support rider Joan Pedrero. If Marc is to win his fourth Dakar title he needs Joan to be on top form and his team mate seems happy to keep up the pace.

“Today I started with the idea of pushing a little more and see what kind of response I got from my riding ability as well as the bike. Let me tell the bike is working like a dream and I even managed to impress myself a little as well. I was feeling confident out there, even if the stage had lots of obstacles. It was a fun stage, a real Dakar stage!” – Joan Pedrero.

While Marc and Chaleco swapped places at the top of the leaderboard another familiar face returned to the podium places. Three-time Dakar champion Cyril Despres put himself in third place with an extremely solid ride.

Over in the car race nobody could deal with the raw speed of the Hummers belonging to Robby Gordon and Nasser Al-Attiyah. After some problems on day one Nasser recaptured the skills that made him the 2011 Dakar champion to win stage two. Despite a great day in the Hummer camp it’s the BMW X-Raid Mini of Stephane Peterhansel that tops the leaderboard with Giniel de Villiers also handily placed.

The Kamaz Team are rumbling into life over in the truck category with Eduard Nikolaev in cab #500 now breathing down the neck of race leader Gerard de Rooij.

Despite the stack of South Americans in the quad race it was the Polish contingent that dominated the race with Lukasz Laskawiec bagging a stage win on day two of the 2012 Dakar Rally.

Dakar Digit: 44

Bruno da Costa and bike #44 will play no further part in the 2012 Dakar Rally after the Frenchman crashed into a cow on the second stage. Bruno was airlifted to hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured spine. The biker remains in a conscious state and was able to speak to his wife on the phone while doctors in Mendoza continue their medical assessment.

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Giniel de Villiers | Catching up with friends | Jan 3, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers once again stuck to his game plan to stay in and around the early pacesetters at the Dakar Rally. He tells us about catching up (and overtaking) some old friends...

Today was a much tougher test than the first stage, but I’m happy to say our car responded well. We managed to get amongst the X-Raid Minis, but we also had the Hummers to deal with – they managed to get two cars in the top three.

My old team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah had a problem on yesterday’s stage, so I was happy to see him back today and doing well. I checked out the split times of the Hummers on the first stage and they were going faster than the Minis. That speed didn’t show up in the final results because Robby Gordon stopped to help Nasser out at the end of the stage.

'It’s great for us that we are keeping pace with the Hummers and Minis'

There didn’t seem to be too much problem for Nasser or Robby today though – they both finished in the top three. The Hummer has had some reliability issues in the past, so we’ll see if they can hang around this year. It’s great for us that we are keeping pace with the Hummers and Minis.

It’s a good feeling to be working in a team with my old buddy Glyn Hall, as we did so much together in the early days of my career. Glyn built the car in which I won four South African Touring Car championships. He also put together the Nissan Hardbody that I drove in my first Dakar Rally in 2003.

Then I left Nissan to drive for Volkswagen and Glyn also left to work for Toyota. For the last couple of years, we’ve seen each other around the bivouac at the Dakar and enjoyed some banter with each other. Now we’re back on the same team – but the banter is continuing!

Giniel and co-pilot Dirk are in sixth place after two stages of 2012 Dakar Rally and less than four minutes behind race leader Stephane Peterhansel.

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Adam Malysz | Get a feel for things | Jan 3, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Adam Malysz’s 2012 Dakar rally adventure continued with another successful day in his Mitsubishi Pajero. Adam pays tribute to co-driver Rafal Marton after reaching the end of the second stage.

When everybody told me that yesterday’s stage was only a warm-up to the real thing I wasn’t sure if they were joking. I know the first stage was short but it still seemed tough to me. Now I have raced nearly 300kms on the second stage compared to the 57km on the first day I know that there was no joke.

Today’s stage had a completely different feel to it from the first day. For the opening stage we left from Mar del Plata and all the crowds created a really party atmosphere. Then we had a short timed section and a long ride along the highway to Santa Rosa de la Pampa. For this second stage we started from an isolated bivouac instead of a big city. That didn’t mean that there weren’t any crowds though, there were still plenty of fans out to enjoy the race.

Taking into consideration the length of the timed special stage I think I have learned more about the Dakar today than I did yesterday. One thing is the same though, I’m so happy to have made it to the finish line.

I have to pay credit to my co-pilot Rafal Marton, having him onboard with me is such a help. I spent so much time improving my driving skills before coming to the Dakar it was impossible for me to study the navigation techniques as well. Luckily for me I don’t really have to worry about the roadbooks because Rafal has his experience of seven trips to the Dakar. I’m relying on Rafal to tell me what is coming around the next corner and it’s great that he’s so good at his job.

Our aim for the Dakar remains the same, get to the finish line and then have a look what position we end up in. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction to achieve this goal but I’m sure the race still has plenty of surprises left in store.

Adam and Rafal finished the second stage after racing for over four hours in their Mitsubishi Pajero. Check back in tomorrow to see how they do on the road from San Rafael to San Juan.

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Norberto Fontana | Fontana fan club in a frenzy | Jan 3, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Former Formula One driver Norberto Fontana was already a hero in his native Argentina. Now he is tackling the Dakar Rally on home soil and his fan club is growing even bigger.

My racing career has taken me all over the world and I have lived for many years away from Argentina. Racing in Formula One and Formula Three had me living in Europe and Japan before I moved my family back to Argentina. Now the Dakar Rally has given me the opportunity to race in front of my own people that is something that has been missing for long periods of my life.

I got a taste of what the Dakar in Argentina was all about last year, but unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end of the race. This time I want to go all the way, but I also know how difficult it will be to reach Lima.

It’s such a great feeling to have all this support along the route, my co-pilot Gerardo Scicolone and myself are mobbed whenever we stop the car. I think the passion of the fans here in Argentina has surprised the competitors that come from Europe. I know how deep the feeling for motorsport is in Argentina, it’s a love that dates back to before the times of Juan Fangio the great Formula One champion.

There used to be such a special atmosphere at the Formula One race in Buenos Aires but since the Grand Prix was taken away Argentinians have become more interested in off-road races. Argentina has all the terrain required to make a tough endurance, I suppose that’s why the Dakar has come here.

All the fans I meet along the way tell me they want me to win but I have to remind them that I’m part of a small team and my hope is only to finish the race. If I do that I will get the chance to race in Chile and Peru as well, that’s something to look forward to.

Norberto, or “El Gigante de Arrecifes” to his army of fans, may not be worrying the podium places but he still commands a place in the top 40 pop pickers!

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 4 | San Juan - Chilecito – Video | Jan 3, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

On stage 4 of the Dakar 2012, from San Juan to Chilecito, the competitors will hardly have time to admire the impressive canyons and parched rivers in the Province of Rioja as their navigation and driving skills are put to the next test. It could be all too easy to lose time on the way to Chilecito and there will likely be casualties even among the leaders... Get a first-hand taste of stage 4 from Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Backstage with the KTM Team | Stage 1 Highlights | Jan 2, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Day one of the Dakar 2012 sees us catch up with the Red Bull KTM team as they relax ahead of Stage 1. Defending champion Marc Coma, Cyril Despres and rookie Mohammed Balooshi give their thoughts on the upcoming event. In addition, we round up all the best action and news from the opening day of the 2012 Dakar Rally.

 

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Marc Coma’s Stage Profiles | Stage 3 | San Rafael - San Juan – Video | Jan 2, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

During stage three of the 2012 Dakar, from San Rafael to San Juan, the next challenge facing the competitors will be the foothills of the Andes. The demanding route is filled with potholes and the participants will have to cross several rivers which will put the engines of the vehicles to their first real test. Get a first-hand guide to stage three from Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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Giniel de Villiers | Bang in the mix | Jan 1, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Giniel de Villiers made a serious statement on the first stage on the 2012 Dakar Rally. The South African proved that his Toyota Hilux has what it takes to keep up with the much-fancied Minis. Here’s how the 2009 Dakar champion saw things out on the stage...

I'm pretty happy with the day’s work from [co-driver] Dirk (von Zitzewitz) and myself out there today. The X-Raids Minis got the top three places but we are right there on their coat tails. We wanted to make a statement on the first stage that we are here to compete and I think we managed that with our fourth place finish.

We also had half an eye on tomorrow’s stage because we know it’s going to be dusty so we didn’t want to be starting too far back. I’m happy to say that our Toyota responded well when we gave it a little push so we’ll see how much more we can get out of it in the coming days. It was only a short stage today but it was important that we maintained pace with the leaders. There will be some bigger tests coming up, that’s for sure.

I said before the race started that our plan will be trying to stick to the Minis and after today I don’t see any reason why that tactic has to change. Of course a big part of our plan is keeping our car running well so that means plenty of hard work each night in the bivouac. Starting tomorrow the timed special stages get longer so that will give our mechanics plenty to think about. When you bring a new car to the Dakar there’s always going to be a lot of “wait and see”.

We’ve got a great camp with us this year, lots of guys from South Africa and some of them are experiencing their first Dakar. It’s great to have that kind of infectious enthusiasm in the camp and I hope we can perform well to maintain that kind of spirit.

We also have Orly Terranova from Argentina driving in the team and having a local guy around has meant the support we have been getting has been fantastic. As well as being a great guy, Orly is also a very skilled driver so I hope we can get some friendly competition going within the team.

Giniel and Dirk are in fourth place after the first stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally but only 15 seconds separates them and race leader Leonid Novitskiy

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Cyril Despres | Steady as she goes | Jan 1, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

After Cyril’s 5am wake up call he left Mar del Plata and headed 800km to Santa Rosa de la Pampa. The marathon distance left the three-time Dakar champion in no doubt that the race is now on...

I took my time out there today to warm up and get into race mode. The conditions were tricky because we rode along Argentina’s Atlantic coastline and there was a fierce wind knocking at my bike.

Despite the difficulty it was a stage I enjoyed, the dunes were a challenge and the landscape was beautiful. The timed part of the stage was very short and I think we can call it a sprint today. That kind of racing is not my speciality but I like to feel my way into a stage, especially if it’s the first day of a Dakar Rally.

My plan for the day was not to push with whoever was setting the pace but instead focus on finding my own rhythm. Another aspect of the stage that made me watch my speed was the amount of spectators who were there to watch us race. It wasn’t a dangerous situation but it was also important to take care not to get involved in an accident.

I’m planning on making a few adjustments to the bike tonight because I wasn’t expecting such heat. This is not my first time in Argentina at this time of year but the temperatures we are getting at the moment has surprised everyone I think. There was also something going on with my suspension that didn’t feel great out there. It could be a long night, but you kind of expect that after the first stage.

So there are a few little jobs to do but overall it feels good to be on my bike and riding the Dakar again. Because the Dakar is such a unique race I always take the first couple of days to feel my way into the rally. The more kilometres that pass the stronger I feel.

I’m happy for Chaleco to get the stage win because he had such a battle to come back from his crash in Tunisia. I saw him this morning with a big smile on his face and looking really motivated to prove that he was still a competitive rider. By winning the stage he certainly proved he is still a top guy in this sport.

After some conservative riding from Cyril on the first day of 2012 Dakar Rally he finds himself in 13th pace in the overall standings, 1m48s behind race leader Chaleco Lopez.

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Adam Malysz | Feet firmly on the ground | Jan 1, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

Adam Malysz has swapped the ski slopes for the desert sands of the Dakar Rally. Hear how the Polish Olympic medal winning ski jumper is adapting to life behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Pajero...

The plan for today was to reach the end of the stage so I’m happy to report than we achieved our aim. There was some lovely scenery on the stage today and the support from the local fans was amazing. I think my time puts me in 70th place overall and about 20 minutes behind the leader. That result is fine for me because I’m not here to try and win the race, not at all.

I hope above everything else that I can make it to the finish line. I think everybody who reaches the end of the Dakar is a winner. I feel more confident of doing this after completing the first stage of the race. It was great to be sharing the car with my co-pilot Rafal (Marton) because when you are ski jumping you are totally alone. I’m enjoying the team work that needs to happen for a successful Dakar Rally.

'It was great to be sharing the car with my co-pilot, Rafael; when you are ski jumping you are totally alone' – Adam Malysz

Something else about rally driving that is totally different to ski jumping is the long periods of concentration required to stay on the right track. Going down the slope and completing a jump takes just a couple of seconds but here I have to keep my focus for four or five hours. Once again it is great to have Rafal with me to help maintain the level of concentration we need.

One thing that ski jumping and rally racing do have in common is that aspect of danger. I know about the risks involved with racing the Dakar Rally the same as I knew what accidents happen on the ski slopes. During 27 years of ski jumping I never thought too much about things that could go wrong and I don’t let these things play on my mind at the Dakar either. The risks will always be there when you chase adrenaline like I do.

After all the training and racing I have done to prepare for the Dakar it’s a great feeling to finally get underway and arrive at the first bivouac. It’s as difficult as I expecting it to be but I glad that my Dakar dream is being realised. Now I just need to make sure I get as far as the finish line.

The team I have supporting me are doing a great job with the car and are working hard everyday to help me get to the end of the race in Lima. Now I’m feeling pressure not just from myself but also from my guys, I don’t want to disappoint them by making a silly mistake out there.

I also want to give my fans something to cheer and it’s been great to see Polish flags out here in Argentina. I feel so lucky that people who enjoyed watching me on the ski slopes are now also taking an interest in my adventure at the Dakar Rally. I would like to say a big thank you for all the messages of support I have received from back home.

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Marek Dabrowski | Making hay while the sun shines | Jan 1, 2012 RIDER'S BLOG

The Orlen Team from Poland will once again be major players in the Dakar Rally this year. With three bikers entered in the race they have an enviable mix of raw talent and plenty of experience. Kuba Przygonski is the youngster of the group while Jacek Czachor has completed 11 editions of the Dakar. Somewhere between these two in age is their team-mate, Marek Dabrowski...

This is where things start to get serious now, we had a really fast stage today and everybody got to know the kind of race they are in. Even more exhausting than the timed special stage was the long liaison route. Riding those 700km in the middle of the South American summer season took so much out of me. It was like being in an oven with no escape so I just kept riding and riding until finally the bivouac appeared.

Back home in Poland we were training and testing our bikes in temperatures somewhere around zero degrees. The only way we could have replicated these kind of conditions is if we had taken the bikes into a sauna!

The team went to Morocco for some testing but even in North Africa the temperature was nowhere near as hot as it was today – Marek

We also only arrived in Mar del Plata a couple of days before today’s first stage so there was no time to acclimatised ourselves or our machines. We have been talking together at the end of the stage as a team as we all agreed that the heat is just something we are going to have to adapt to, day by day.

Today was a short special stage but it suited me fine. I started as bike #49 and I past 25 riders and that was important to help my position tomorrow. There is going to be lots of dust on the second stage so it was great to improve my position today and take some pressure off myself.

I’ll be pushing everyday to improve my own position but I think it’s clear to everyone that the fastest guy in our team is Kuba (Przygonski). The strategy is that if something happens out there Jacek and myself will do everything we can to help Kuba. We will give him all the support he needs but to tell the truth in the previous races we have done together he never needs anyone to come and help him. If the race goes like this I’ll be happy to keep pushing myself up the leaderboard.

A successful first stage for Orlen Team saw Kuba Przygonski arrive at the finish line in fourth place as well as strong rides from Marek and Jacek Czachor.

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Daily Dakar Diary | Day 1 | Death and Glory | Jan 1, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The 2012 Dakar Rally got underway on New Year's Day with Chaleco Lopez the overnight leader. The day was marred though by the unfortunate death of Argentinian rider Jorge Andres Boero...

Stage One – Mar del Plata to Santa Rosa de la Pampa

Without any doubt the star of the show on the first stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally was Chaleco Lopez. The Chilean biker put a miserable year behind him on New Year’s Day to put himself top of the leaderboard.

2011 started badly for Chaleco Lopez and got even worse as the year went on. On the final stage of last year’s Dakar Rally the Chilean biker saw his place on the podium snatched away by mechanical failure. Later in the year Chaleco suffered a terrible crash in Tunisia that saw him hospitalized for three months.

Chaleco's decision to enter the 2012 Dakar Rally was left right up until the last minute and before the race he said that he was feeling only 80% recovered from the crash in Tunisia. With such cautious words from the Chilean nobody was expecting it would be him who lead the way from Mar del Plata to Santa Rosa de la Pampa.

“I did not get off to a very fast start this morning because the first part of the special stage was quite tough. Not only were the dunes tricky to navigate but there were also lots of spectators on the track. The first stage of the race is always a big event and it’s great to finally get focused on the race. The last 20kms of the special stage were very fast and I took the chance to drive with plenty of aggression,” he said.

'There were potholes, dust and also spectators to steer clear of on the first stage' – Cyril Despres

Also heading out of Mar del Plata at 5am on the 820km road to Santa Rosa were the rest of the bikers, including Cyril Despres and Marc Coma.

“I’m happy to get started, ride my motorcycle and check out the roadbook. It’s a familiar feeling and it was easy to get back in the swing of things today. I drove a cautious stage because of all the obstacles out there today. There were potholes, fesh-fesh, dust and also race fans to steer clear of on the stage,” said Despres.

Marc Coma said: “I was really impressed with the scenery on the first stage. We were next to the seaside and although the dunes were small there was plenty of them. It was a fantastic warm-up for what is still to come. Happy New Year everyone."

After the first day of riding it remains tight in the bike class with only 14 seconds separating Chaleco Lopez in first place and Marc Coma in second position. Cyril Despres finished the day 13th in the overall rankings but less than two minutes behind Chaleco.

In the car class it was a good day for the BMW X-Raid Minis as they completed a one-two-three finish on the first stage. The Toyota Hilux of Giniel de Villiers lurks behind as the South African arrived in Santa Rosa in fourth place.

There was plenty of intrigue in the truck race and for the first time in over a decade there was not a single Kamaz machine in the top three at the end of the stage. Top honours were taken by Dutchman Marcel van Vliet.

The quad race is already shaping up to be an intense battle between the army of South American riders on four wheels. 2010 champion Marcos Patronelli is well placed after the first stage but the mood on the first day was darkened by the unfortunate death of his Argentinian compatriot, Jorge Andres Boero.

Boero, 38, making only his second appearance on the gruelling rally, sustained a heart attack after a fall from his Beta bike 55km into the first special stage. Boero received immediate medical attention and was airlifted by helicopter but died on his way to hospital.

Dakar Digit: 8,391km

Stage one saw the Dakar Rally bite off the first chunk of the 8,391km the competitors must complete if they are to arrive in Lima. One bike that has already tasted life in Lima this week is the Honda of American Quinn Cody. A mix-up with the shipping documents saw Quinn’s bike arrive at the finish line rather than the start in Mar del Plata. Some last-minute logistics eventually got the Honda to Mar del Plata and Quinn finished the first day in fourth place.

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DAILY DAKAR DIARY | Under starters orders | Jan 1, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

The Dakar’s time in Mar del Plata was fun while it lasted but the people driving the 443 vehicles in this year’s desert classic couldn’t wait to get put themselves to the test on the long road to Lima.

It was another busy day in the scrutineering section of the Dakar Village as about 200 bikes were wheeled through and given the once over. Like every other aspect of the Dakar Rally, reputation counts for nothing in the inspection tent as three-time champion Marc Coma and his team-mate Joan Pedrero were put through their paces just like everybody else.

“Finally we have passed through scrutineering and everything is fine. We are now looking forward to starting the race after these past days in Mar del Plata. The tension is becoming too much. There are always difficult moments that crop up at the last second and ironing out those creases is important if we are to succeed. Now my mind is on the race and nothing else.” - Marc Coma

“It’s always a big relief to pass the scrutineering tests because it’s always a cumbersome part of the preparations. Everything went well thanks to the professionalism of my team and sponsors. I’m so grateful to feel this level of support behind me because it allows to focus fully on the job I came here to do, race.” – Joan Pedrero

Also on clear to all in the scrutineering section of the Dakar Village is the blossoming bromance between Marc Coma and Cyril Despres. Like fine wine the pair, who have won the last six Dakars between them, seem to be mellowing with age.

“Things have calmed down a lot between us. I think we are both much happier to be starting the race in this frame of mind.” – Cyril Despres.

Once their machines had been given the all clear it was time for the bikers to join the rest of Dakar competitors at the departure ceremony in Plaza Colon. The crowds whooped and hollered for each of the 443 vehicles that mounted the podium before speeding along Mar del Plata’s seafront.

Helder Rodrigues, fresh from his coronation as Portugal’s 2011 Sportsman of the Year, was looking as relaxed as ever as he pulled off a few crowd pleasing wheelies before leaving his fellow bikers with a warning.

“Everyone should take the chance to relax tonight because when tomorrow comes we all have to put our chips on the table.” – Helder Rodriguez

Someone else looking to put a cat among the pigeons is Giniel de Viliers. The South African already has one Dakar car class title to his name and he took the chance in Mar del Plata to sow a seed of doubt among his rivals.

“I can admit that our performance is not as good as the X-Raid Minis but in Morocco we saw that their car is not perfectly reliable. Our strategy will be to stay close and take advantage of any mistakes they make.”

 

Dakar Digit: 178 motorcycles, 30 quads, 161 cars and 74 trucks will start the 2012 Dakar Rally. How many will make it to the finish line? Right here is the best place to find out...

 

 

 

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DAILY DAKAR DIARY | The story of unlucky Don | Jan 1, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

As the 2012 Dakar Rally gets underway in Mar del Plata spare a thought for Canada’s brave biker Don Hutton. The off-road racer from British Columbia was hoping to finally finish the Dakar after three failed attempts but disaster has struck once again.

48 hours before he was due to fly to Argentina, Don suffered a freak accident while working on his farm. He moving his machinery into storage when a 700 kilo (1,500lb) hay bail fell on to him and dashed his Dakar dream. To add insult to injury, it happened on Christmas Day.

The injury separated Don’s shoulders and damage the tendons in his neck.

“For the next few weeks I will feel sorry for myself and lick my wounds.” – Don Hatton

The Canadian has been all over the world following his passion of competing in endurance motorcycle rally raids. And having conquered the toughest terrain on the planet, completing the Dakar Rally was the only feat to still elude Don.

But his attempts so far have been dogged by bad luck. Don’s first take on the Dakar was over before it started after terrorist threats saw the 2008 edition cancelled. When the race relocated to South America, Don tried again but his second attempt lasted only slightly longer than his first: a nasty crash a few days in saw Don sent home sooner than he wanted.

Don’s third attempt was his most successful to date: he overcame a dose of serious food poisoning to make the start line in Buenos Aires, came within touching distance of the halfway mark before a fuel tank problem ended his race in the Atacama Desert.

Financial struggles made it impossible for Don to enter the 2011 Dakar Rally but he managed to convince his bank manager (and his wife!) to allow him to return to South America for this year.

The 53-year-old was sure he could finally complete the course on his KTM 450cc Rally Replica.

“The passion is still there and I want to prove to myself that I can do it. The Dakar has taught me a lot. I always been fascinated by the race and it was my wife who finally said that I should go and give it a try. I’ve invested my retirement money in trying to make my dream a reality.” – Don Hatton

Bike #118 of Rally Raid Canada will be missed at this year’s Dakar but Don’s doctor has told him that he should be fit to ride again in six to eight weeks. We wish you all the best Don and hope to see you again soon!

“I’m already committed to compete in other rallies but I will have a long think about attempting another Dakar. I’m now starting to believe that there might be a message behind all these accidents.” – Don Hatton.

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MARC COMA'S STAGE PROFILES | Stage 2 | Santa Rose de la Pampa - San Rafael | Jan 1, 2012 EDITOR'S BLOG

Following the ‘warm-up stage’ on January 1, an early start will kick off stage two of the Dakar 2012 as the competitors race from Santa Rose de la Pampa to San Rafael. After the first, fast part of the stage on firm ground, the competitors will get a foretaste of the desert when they enter the first dunes. Get a first-hand estimation of stage two by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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MARC COMA'S STAGE PROFILES | Stage 1 | Mar Del Plata - Santa Rosa De La Pampa | Dec 31, 2011 EDITOR'S BLOG

After the traditional opening ceremony on December 31, the first Argentinean stage of the Rally Dakar 2012 will lead the competitors from the seaside resort of Mar del Plata to Santa Rosa de la Pampa. The first stage is mainly a warm-up exercise to determine each competitor's position in the rankings for the first time. Get a first-hand estimation of stage one by Dakar expert and title contender Marc Coma in this video.

 

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