Cyril Despres beat his teammate Marc Coma to win his fourth Dakar Rally, while KTM captured its 11th consecutive win in the 33rd running of the off-road race.
Despres won three stages and finished the 5,214-mile race in South America in a total time of 43 hours, 28 minutes and 11 seconds. Despres crossed the finish in Lima, Peru, with a lead of 53 minutes and 20 seconds ahead of his fellow Red Bull KTM rider Coma. Despres also won the Dakar Rally in 2010, as well as 2007 and 2005 when the rally was held in Europe and Africa.
Though the final score sheet showed nearly an hour separating Despres and Coma, the actual racing was much closer. Coma won four stages to Despres’ three and was penalized 45 minutes for needing an engine change due to gearbox problems. Both Coma and Despres were earlier penalized 15 minutes for the first engine change, and the costly45 minute penalty was assessed for Coma’s second engine swap.
“Today we won and it’s simply fantastic. 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 it’s toll on your mind,” says Despres. “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.”
Coma, who won the Dakar in 2006, 2009 and 2011, finished 17 minutes and 57 seconds ahead of third place finisher Helder Rodrigues of Yamaha (pictured #3 below, beside #2 Despres and #1 plate wearer Coma).
KTM continues to dominate the Dakar Rally competition, winning every year since 2001 except 2008 when the race was cancelled due to security concerns. This year, including Despres and Coma, KTM machines accounted for eight of the top 10 finishers and 15 of the top 20 in the motorcycle class.
The 2012 Dakar Rally was not without a bit of tragedy. Beta rider Jorge Andrés Boero sustained a heart attack after a fall during the first stage. The 38-year-old Argentine racer was competing in his second Dakar Rally.