Dakar, Stage Thirteen: The dust settles

Photo: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool

It’s over, folks. The 2015 Dakar Rally is in the books, and  once again KTM proved to be unstoppable; their top rider, Marc Coma, handily defeated all comers to take his fifth Dakar victory.

Stage Thirteen ended on Saturday, with very little change in the  top  10; Ivan Jakes powered to the stage win, perhaps because he  didn’t want to finish behind a girl. His win put him ahead of Honda’s Laia Sanz, who finished the Dakar as she started: Riding sensibly. She finishes in ninth overall, the highest-placed female rider ever, and did it  without the drama that surrounded the rest of the Honda squad.

Speaking of her teammates, Paulo Goncalves  takes second overall, Helder Rodrigues finished in 12th and Joan Barreda finished in 17th, despite racking up stage wins; he was an abysmal 64th in the shortened final stage, behind even Ana Chinbataar (KTM), who’s only been riding a couple years. Barreda may have experienced mechanical problems, as his engine was suspect.

Speaking of the shortened  final stage – organizers cut things off early after rain turned the course into a mudfest. Photos circulating  around the ‘net  showed rider Llewelyn Pavey and his bike coated in so much mud they were unrecognizable as man and machine; rumour had it this was the end result of being towed for miles to the finish by his father Simon. It’s  a remarkable  achievement for both to finish the rally. Father and son were dead last in Stage Thirteen and ended in 63rd and 62nd, respectively.

You can see the mud-induced havoc here.

KTM has to be very chuffed over this year’s results; despite massive pressure from Honda, KTM again dominated the series in the end, with seven riders in the top 10. Their only star rider to fall out was Jordi Viladoms, and other up-and-coming riders showed Team Orange has a bright future if they stick around. The greatest indication of that is Australian Toby Price, whose third overall finishing position equals the previous best mark set by a Dakar rookie. No doubt Price will be back, and threatening for top spot overall once he gains more experience.

For now, though, that top spot remains in Coma’s possession. The fans love him, whether they’re locals or adventure riding fanatics. He’s still the man to beat, nine years after his first Dakar win in 2006. Some rumours have him going to race cars soon, like former teammate and rival Cyril Despres, but KTM will surely  do everything in their power to keep him around.

Speaking of Despres, the former motorcycle star ended the race in 34th in his Peugeot. Canadian Patrick Beaule (ALDO Racing), also a former motorcycle racer, ended in 32nd – you can bet he’s pleased he beat the man who dominated the bike race in 2013, when Beaule did Dakar on two wheels.

Now that everything’s done, it’s time for teams to figure out what went right for them, and what went wrong. KTM  just has to keep doing more of the same – building a fast, yet uncomplicated  bike that can withstand whatever the Dakar throws at it, and continue to attract top racers by providing them with the best machinery.

Honda came close  to dethroning KTM this year, but Barreda once again saw his chances torpedoed by a combination  of bad luck and untamed speed. The team  showed a lot of determination this year, and if they can build a bike that will last the length of the rally under Barreda’s punishing hands, they have the potential to have three or four riders in the top  10, and possibly win the whole thing.

Yamaha has got to be disappointed this year.  Although they’ve had  great results in the past few years, with riders challenging KTM for the win, there was no Yamaha rider even remotely close to a podium finish this year. Olivier Pain, who finished third overall  last year, was relegated to 10th this year. Rumours said Yamaha’s bikes entered the Dakar poorly set-up for the race; next year, perhaps  they can recruit a star rider, and a revised motorcycle could make them a threat again.

Sherco, normally a top-10 threat, saw star Alain Duclos run into mechanical trouble after the vicious Stage Eight. He finished 25th overall, and teammate Fabien Planet was 29th, partly because he stopped to help Duclos with his problems. Sherco has nowhere near the budget of teams like Honda or KTM, and they need a bit of luck to help with that. That luck wasn’t there this year;  hopefully they’ll  return next year with more positive results.

Dakar 2015 : Bike rankings after Stage 13

1. Coma (KTM) – 46:03:49

2. Goncalves (Honda) – 46:20:42 (00:16:53) (00:00:17 penalty)

3. Price (KTM) – 46:27:03 (00:23:14)

4. Quintanilla (KTM) – 46:42:27 (00:38:38)

5. Svitko (KTM) – 46:48:06 (00:44:17)

6. Faria (KTM) – 48:01:39 (01:57:50) (00:00:41 penalty)

7. Casteau (KTM) – 48:04:03 (02:00:14)

8. Jakes (KTM) – 48:22:07 (02:18:18)

9. Sanz (Honda) – 48:28:10 (02:24:21)

10. Pain (Yamaha) – 49:12:58 (03:09:09)

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