The ninth stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally was like an exciting sprint finish between the rally favourites Marc Coma and Cyril Despres.
Although yesterday’s top 10 finishers started side-by-side, Coma was the quickest over the 170km route. The Catalan picked up the 10th special stage victory of his Dakar career by beating general standings leader Despres by just four seconds.
The stage was shorter but no less difficult for the competitors in the Dakar, with an especially spectacular start side-by-side for the best 10 finishers the day before. They were then followed by the rest of the riders in waves of 20.
Coma took control early, leading the pack over the route almost entirely made up of the dunes around Copiapo. In the dunes, the Catalan tried to leave the other race favourites in his wake.
At CP1 (at the 117km point) it was race leader Despres who put in the best time, with a lead of only four seconds over Coma and 20’’ over Pal-Anders Ullevalseter, now the nearest rival to the French race leader.
Coma once again stepped it up in the last part of the special and the combat, but his eternal rival Despres lasted right up to the finishing line, eventually seeing Coma win the stage by the narrowest of margins.
Yesterday’s stage winner, Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez found it difficult on his Aprilia 450cc to follow the pace imposed by the big KTMs. Nonetheless, the Chilean finished his day in third position, 1’14 behind the day’s winner.
As a result, Coma joins the very exclusive club of 14 bikers who have won at least 10 special stages in the Dakar, although he still remains far behind Despres who boasts 22 triumphs and even further behind the record holder on a bike Stéphane Peterhansel at 33 victories.
In the general standings, Despres now has a lead of 1 hour 21 minutes over Ullevalseter and 1 hour 25 minutes over Lopez.