Dutchman Frans Verhoeven won the final stage of the Dakar Rally on a BMW, but it was KTM factory rider Marc Coma who rode into Buenos Aires in triumph on Saturday as the 2011 winner of the mighty Dakar Rally. Fellow KTM factory rider Cyril Despres, the title holder going into the Dakar, fought the good fight right up until the finish, was second overall. He trailed Coma by just over 15 minutes after 9600 km of competitive riding over the most challenging terrain possible. Considering that Despres incurred a 10-minute penalty in the early part of the race, he and Coma rode on equal terms throughout the 13 stages and frequently finished only minutes apart. Indeed in the penultimate stage there was only 37 second separating the two riders at the end of the day. Between them Coma and Despres took victory in eight of the 13 stages – Coma won five stages and Despres won three.

For Americans the brightest moment was Jonah Street’s stage nine victory. It was embedded in several days of mechanical misfortune, but he took some pride in helping fellow American Quinn Cody finish in the top 10 overall. On the final stage, Jonah was 13th and Cody was 14th. In the overall tally, Quinn Cody was ninth and Street was 13th.

Quinn reported that the hardest day of the rally was nearly at the end. On Friday, they started behind the big trucks. It was right after a big rainstorm, and the course was badly torn up. But at that point, the order was established. When it was all over, Quinn finally checked into his hotel in Buenos Aires and staid he felt like pitching a tent on the floor and working on his road book for the next day. Only there was no next day.

The 33rd edition of the race took competitors in a huge sweep through Argentina, across the Andes at 4500 meters altitude into northern Chile and up to the border with Peru, over a number of stages in the notoriously dry Atacama Desert, back across the Andes and through Argentina to the finish in the capital.

Coma: ‘Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win. What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough stsge was ending, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days. It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years.’

Frans Verhoeven: ‘I entered the day determined to post a top result for the team. The bike worked awesome today and made this win possible.’

Verhoeven passed three riders during the super-fast stage to finish ahead of Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues. Verhoeven moves up in the standings and finishes 15th overall. A lot more could have happened if the team hadn´t been so badly hurt by crashes and that particular incident when a stone damaged Verhoeven´s engine case.

Stage 13 Results
1, Frans Verhoeven, Belgium, BMW
2, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 00:05
3, Jean De Azevedo, Brazil, KTM, 26:04 at 00:05
4, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 00:44
5, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 2:16
6, Henk Knuiman, Netherlands, KTM, 2:47
7, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:05
8, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM 3:51
9, Jacek Czachor, Poland, KTM, 4:38
10, Miran Stanovnik, Slovenia, KTM, 5:16
11. Teus Visser, Netherland, KTM 5:48
13 Jonah Street, USA, Yamaha
14, Quinn Cody, USA, Honda
15, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 8:34

Final Overall Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, at 15:04
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha, 1:40:20
4, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia,
5, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 3:07:03
9 Quinn Cody, USA, Honda
13 Jonah Street, USA Yamaha

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