Cyril Despres won his fifth career Dakar Rally while helping KTM win for the 12th consecutive time, in taking the motorcycle class in the 2013 edition of the famed off-road race.
KTM was again the dominant manufacturer with the top five finishers in the motorcycle class riding motorcycles from the Austrian manufacturer. Despres finished with an overall time of 43:24:22 for the win, including a 15-minute penalty for swapping an engine after the one he was using in his KTM 450 Rallye failed. The engine problem hindered Despres on the marathon 7th and 8th stages but he received help from another KTM-supported rider, Marek Dabrowski who offered his engine in an emergency swap.
Second place went to Despres’ KTM Red Bull Factory teammate Ruben Faria (43:35:05) while Francisco Lopez finished third with a time of 43:43:10 and would have finished second if not for his own 15-minute penalty for an engine swap on the 14th and final stage. Rounding out the top five were KTM riders Ivan Jakes and Juan Pedrero.
The win was the fifth of Despres’ career, with previous victories coming in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012. The 2013 Rally posed some challenges for Despres. He had just a single stage victory in this year’s rally on Stage 9 but he also finished some stages as far back as 12th, 14th, 32nd and 58th on Stage 8 where he was assessed his penalty. By comparison, Despres won three stages in last year’s Dakar Rally and only finished outside the top 10 on the first stage.
“I went for it, with all the surprises a Dakar can throw at you,” says Despres. “Little navigational mistakes, perhaps fewer than the others, taking care of my motorcycle and being in a good team. In the end, I’ve got a good reason to be very happy. The day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won’t be interesting any more. And this day is still far! It’s too long, it’s too tough, it’s too hot. It’s too cold. You’ve got to get up early in the morning. You’ve got to find your way out of the maze of dunes in Peru and Chile. You’ve got to tackle the stones and cactuses on the courses near Córdoba. It’s just too tricky for it to be easy to win. And it’s even better when you win a difficult race. I’m always focused on what I have to do. We’re up against a grueling element, the desert. Then there are the stones, the Andes… and we experience them. It’s as real as it gets.”
The top non-KTM rider was Olivier Pain, representing Yamaha Motor France. Pain finished sixth overall with a time of 44:30:53 and held the overall lead from Stages 4-7 before dropping back to fourth overall with a 77th place finish in Stage 8. A navigational mistake cost him dearly followed by a number of unfortunate circumstances. Another Yamaha rider, Frans Verhoeven, finished ninth.
“I started the first week further back and had a run of bad luck. I fell on my back and, during the same stage, I got a hole in my tank and lost loads of time,” says Pain. “Then, I hurt my elbow. I calmed down for a while in order to recover, and over the last few days I managed to claw my way back up the classification. Now I’m sixth. I was aiming for the Top 5, I’m just outside it but the first week makes up for it all. It was a nice Dakar for me.”
Also notable were Honda riders Helder Rodrigues and Javier Pizzolito who finished seventh and eighth overall respectively in the Japanese manufacturer’s return to the Dakar Rally. Meanwhile, Paulo Goncalves finished tenth overall in just the second Dakar Rally for the Husqvarna factory team.
Kurt Caselli was the highest-finishing American, placing 31st overall with two stage victories for KTM riding as a replacement for the injured Marc Coma. Johnny Campbell, an 11-time Baja 1000 winner, finish 40th overall for Honda in his first Dakar Rally race on a motorcycle since finishing eighth in 2001. Campbell also competed in 2012 in the car class as co-driver with Robby Gordon.
And for those keeping track, Hugo Payen and his pornography-sponsored Yamaha finished 49th overall.
[Source: Dakar; Photos by Maragni M. KTM Images, Honda and Yamaha]