KTM factory rider Cyril Despres of France has taken his fifth Desert Challenge victory in eight years, proving again he is king on sand and marking him as a strong favourite for the coming 2009 Dakar Rally in South America.
Despres rode a powerful race virtually throughout the rally and finished some 14 minutes head of second-placed Francisco Lopez of Chile and Britain’s James West. Despres and Lopez were onboard KTM Rally Replica/690 machines while West rode a KTM 690. KTM riders Alain Duclos (France) and Jordi Viladoms (Spain) were fourth and fifth. KM riders scooped all top ten places in the event, which was the first time, after the last minute cancellation of the Dakar in January 2008 that many riders had the opportunity to test themselves against the desert sands.
Despres delighted with win
Predictably Despres, who had led for much of the rally, was delighted with the victory. ‘It’s really amazing. I am really, really happy. Today was very fast and I didn’t push myself too hard because I didn’t want any problems. This is definitely the best rally, especially with all the support and the reassurance of the rescue teams. They may have moved the Dakar to another country, but please do not move the Desert Challenge because it is so unique.’
Glory in the first three stages was shared by Despres and fellow KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain. The two contrived in stage two to slow down the pace of the race and engage in a tactical battle that left Marc first out of the start for stage three and Cyril trailing by just four minutes. But Coma, after a great charge ran out of petrol almost in sight of the finish line, leaving Cyril with the slightest of overall leads – just four seconds at the close of stage three. It looked like Marc’s bid for a hat trick of victories in the desert challenge was in jeopardy.
Coma runs into problems in stage four
Despres then led the field out on stage four and was still in front 314 km later at the finish line this time with a significant lead after Coma experienced technical difficulties. The Spaniard who usually Despres’ greatest rival in key rallies at least had the satisfaction of being fastest rider on the final day but it was Despres who was the clear overall winner 14 minutes and 14 seconds ahead of Lopez.
Despite running out of luck, Coma too was able to put a positive spin on the outcome. ‘It’s been good to build up confidence on this type of terrain and we have not done much racing on sand this year. Yesterday was a very big disappointment, but when we have no problems we are a big fighting team. The rally is really, really, good,’ he said.
Results motorcycles open
1. Cyril Despres, France, KTM Rally Replica/690, 19:22:51
2. Francisco Lopez, Chile, KTM Rally Replica/690,19:37:31
3. James West, Britain, KTM 690/690, 20:09:10
4. Alain Duclos, France, KTM/690, 20:31:40
5. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM Rally Replica/690, 20:32:27
6. Miran Stanovnik, Slovenia, KTM Rally Replica/690, 20:49:08
7. Tim Trenker, Germany, KTM 0/660, 20:53:52
8. Paul Rivet, France, KTM LC4/660, 21:04:01
9. Jakub Przygonski, Poland, KTM Rally Replica/690 21:08:50
10. Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM/450, 30:22:38
Despres delighted with desert victory
Cyril Despres – hot on sand
Second place for Francisco Lopez
KTM victory is teamwork
Alain Duclos in action
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