Joan Barreda was determined to make the most of day 13, the last day of the Dakar Rally, after a crash on Friday took him out of second place in the overall standings. He did so in fine fashion, winning the 157km (97.6-mile) final stage aboard his Honda CRF 450 Rally. However, it was Marc Coma whose star was shining brightest, as he crossed the finish line in 18th place — easily enough to collect his fourth Dakar title.
This year’s Dakar Rally was one of the most grueling to date, as less than half the total field failed to finish the race. Coma’s win was the 13th for KTM. The manufacturer can also celebrate securing the top two positions on the podium, as Coma’s teammate Jordi Viladoms finished in second place. Yamaha rider Olivier Pain rounded out the podium in third, ahead of teammate and five-time winner Cyril Despres.
Coma led the overall standings after stage five and never looked back. He completed the near 9,000 km (5592-mile) course in 54:50.53, almost two hours ahead of second placed Viladoms. He completed the rally with three stage wins, four second-place finishes and three thirds.
Coma’s strategy, based on building an insurmountable lead over his rivals in one single special, has changed little since his last victory in 2011. This time around, it was during the fourth day of racing, the second part of the marathon stage to Chilecito, that Joan Barreda lost the lead, while electronic problems scuttled Cyril Despres’ chances of victory. From then on, Coma focused on avoiding mistakes, while his rivals suffered more and more mishaps, mechanicals and errors — costing them hours in the overall.
The Dakar was especially tough for the Honda team, as numerous setbacks cost them a chance at victory. Still, Team HRC chalked up six wins out of a possible 13, with 11 podium places for the riders. Joan Barreda’s five stage victories was more than any other rider, while Sam Sunderland was able to win on the second day. Hélder Rodrigues was the top finisher for Team HRC, in fifth overall place, Joan Barreda ended in seventh and Javier Pizzolito twenty-third.
Of particular note is Team HRC and their CRF 450 Rally motorcycles was the only team to have completed the entire competition without changing a single engine, which speaks to the massive reliability of the bikes in one of the world’s most grueling races for both man and machine.
Laia Sanz, from the Honda Argentina Rally Team, was the top female rider. Her seventh position in the ninth stage was the highest final classification for a woman in the bike category.