Friday’s Dakar Stage 12, won by KTM factory rider Marc Coma will go down in the record books as one of the stages of the 2011 edition of the Rally most hotly contested. 
At the end of a very long day on the bike, the Spanish rider prevailed over his nemesis, French-born Cyril Despres by just 37 seconds. It was the Spanish rider’s fifth stage victory in the 33rd edition of the rally and his 16th career Dakar stage win. 
The Americans had clean, unventful days. Quinn Cody is now comfortable in the top 10 of each stage (finishing fifth today) while Jonah Street has assumed the role of Cody’s mentor. Street has had one of the most up-and down rides of the whole race, alternating between disasterous days and good ones. The stage nine win will doubtlessly be the highlight–the second of his career. Jonah’s Facebook comments were brief today ‘One more day and shower, provoleta, befe de lomo and a cold beer. Smooth day today sand, mud and fun roads.’ He finished 14th on the day and sits in 13th overall.

If Coma takes the coveted trophy in Buenos Aires on Saturday he will have his third Dakar title and level the score with 2010 winner Despres.  The race, covering 9,500 km however is not over until Saturday and there is still one stage to go. The task will be difficult for Despres but anyone with any Dakar experience knows anything can happen between the end of the penultimate stage and the finish line. 
Despres, who won his third stage yesterday and so he had the job of opening the road. He fought tooth and nail to try to get the edge on Coma, but the Spaniard kept a cool head and stayed within striking distance the entire day. Despres even managed at one point to stretch the lead over Coma to 2 minutes 30 seconds at around the half way mark. But in the end it was Coma’s day and could well now be his rally. 
There were no mishaps for the Spaniard today who rode cleanly and efficiently. He was careful to avoid any navigational errors and waited till the end of the stage before he made his attack on Despres. While the two have fought a battle of attrition throughout the rally, they are now head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Third is currently Chaleco Lopez of Chile, just short of an hour behind Coma with the next rider, Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues at 1 hour 42 minutes.
Despres philosophical after failing to break away from Coma
Despres was philosophical at the then of the 555km ride saying he had to go on the attack. ‘At least it’s good to not have any regrets. I gave it everything I had and it was a long day. It must have rained a lot last night because the tracks were churned up with lots of mud. It was hellish. My chances are looking slimmer though. After a day like that with 555 km to cover and opportunities to open up gaps, we more or less cancelled each other out. Mind you, it’s not the end of the world, you know, you have to keep things in perspective’.
The two KTM factory riders have been each other’s biggest rivals for the past six years and each are known for their courage, skill and determination. Both have also tasted the disappointment of losing out in the final stages.
Ruben Faria and Juan Pedrero, the two water carriers for Despres and Coma respectively, finished Stage 12 in seventh and eighth positions. Pedrero is now fifth overall and Faria is eighth. Tomorrow for the final stage from Cordoba to Buenos Aires riders have to tackle a 645 km link and a relatively short 181 km special, which finishes at the Baradero racing track in the Argentinean capital.
Stage 12 Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 6:42:42
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 00:37
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 7:21
4, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia at 10:03
5, Quinn Alexis Cody USA, Honda, 15:45
6, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 16:57
8, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 23:19

10, Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 26:04
11, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, 33:36
Standings after Stage 12
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 16:36
3, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia at 59:27
4, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 1:42:31
5, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:06:00
6, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM, 3:31:21
7, Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 3:50:35
8, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 4:06:43
9, Quinn Cody, USA, Honda
13, Jonah Street, USA, Yamaha 

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