The first Dakar Rally held in South America is over, and Spaniard Marc Coma on his factory KTM comfortably held on for the win by nearly an hour and a half, relaxing a bit to take sixth in the final stage coming back to the starting point of Buenos Aires.
Second overall went to his team-mate Cyril Depres of France, while third went to French rider David Frétigné on his Yamaha WR450 (giving him a commanding win in the 450 cc class).
KTM took eight out of the overall top 10 spots, with Portuguese Paulo Goncalves on a Honda joining Frétigné’s Yamaha in spoiling KTM’s shot at a clean sweep.
Perhaps even more impressive for the bike group as a whole, the top three riders were faster than all but three of the cars, and 25 of them had times faster than the 10th-place car – seriously impressive stuff.
The final stage win went to Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues, followed by Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter and Depres (all three on KTMs).
Coma was of course over the moon: "I can’t describe the feeling — happy doesn’t even come close. It is so good to be able to draw a line under two difficult years — losing the 2007 Dakar two days from the end and then the cancellation of the 2008 edition."
He added, "It has been a difficult rally for both the organizers and the competitors, due to our lack of experience in racing on this continent, but we have all risen to that challenge. What really made this Dakar special were the people of Argentina and Chile who were so welcoming and enthusiastic."
The car side of the rally went to the VW Touareg team of South-African driver Giniel De Villiers and co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz of Germany, just nine minutes ahead of their team-mates Mark Miller (U.S.) and Ralph Pitchford (South Africa). Third went to the U.S. Hummer team of Robbie Gordon and Andy Grider, nearly an hour and 40 minutes behind.
Canadian Don Hatton was knocked out of the Dakar in the fourth stage. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Hatton describes flying 10 metres into the air after hitting a sudden hill. He said he thought he was "going to die" in his airborne moment. The resulting crash fractured ribs, punctured a lung, and caused internal bleeding. He was recovering in a Buenos Aires hospital at the time of the interview.