With only two days left in the first South American edition of the Dakar, Spaniard Marc Coma on his factory KTM is still in control of the two-wheel contingent, maintaining nearly an hour-and-a-half lead over his team-mate Cyril Depres of France. Third is David Frétigné of France on a Yamaha.
Thursday’s stage saw Depres take the day, followed by Coma and a surprise in Spaniard Gerard Farres Guell (KTM). Frétigné had a bad day, suffering an oil leak from his bike that delayed him, pushing him back to sixth on the day. The day’s winner Depres said, "There was action. The bike overheated a little. I was a bit afraid of the sand dunes. It was tough because the sand was so soft. For a rally-raid biker, starting, passing two or three other bikers along the way and arriving after four hours of special stage, it’s a small pleasure."
There was severe drama on the car side of things, as long-term leaders Carlos Sainz and Michel Perin went out after a nasty crash that wrecked their VW Tuoreg. "We couldn’t see. The front wheels were in the hole and then we toppled over on the front and then the roof. I braked but I couldn’t stop," said Sainz, who hurt his right shoulder in the crash. Co-driver Michel Perin suffered a broken arm and both men were airlifted back to the bivouac at the stage’s start in Fiambala.
"Luckily I wasn’t driving fast. If we were attacking then it would not have been very pleasant," Sainz, who had won six of the stages of this year’s event, added.
Friday’s action is over fast terrain, lots of gravel and dirt but with considerable altitude changes as well, ranging from 150 metres to more than 1,900 metres above sea level.