Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma went on the attack on Thursday and picked up his first stage victory of the 2015 Dakar Rally. Coma was able to claw back two minutes of the gap between him and overall leader and rival Joan Barreda during Stage Five that saw riders compete against tough conditions in Chile’s renowned Atacama Desert.
Coma completed the 458 km of timed special in four hours 38.16. Barreda was second and retains the overall lead by a margin of 10.33.
Two other KTM riders, Pablo Quintanilla of Chile and Stefan Svitko of Slovakia also had a good day finishing 3-4 in the stage while KTM’s newcomers Matthias Walkner of Austria and Australia’s desert racer Toby Price continued to impress. Walkner and Price, both KTM-supported riders finished 8-10, ahead of KTM factory riders Jordi Viladoms and Ruben Faria who were 11 and 15 at the end of the stage.
Coma pushed hard throughout the stage to reduce the gap to Barreda and as the rally approaches the rest day on Saturday the two Spanish rivals have extended their lead to the rest of the pack by a good 10 minutes. Currently seven of the top ten places in the overall standings are occupied by KTM riders however the team is now without British factory rider Sam Sunderland who retired during Stage Four after a crash at the 59 km mark. Sunderland incurred some ligament damage but no serious injury, the team confirmed.
Coma said it had been another hard day’s riding with the fesh-fesh (fine dust) and plenty of rocks making it difficult to maintain a good rhythm in the first half of the stage. His aim was to exert pressure on Barreda but also to ensure the other riders did not close the gap on the front two. “I am happy about the stage win but the fact is that Joan enjoys a significant advantage and we will try to trim it. There is still a lot of race left. The second part (of the rally) is longer with the marathon stages and it will be a fight every day. We are going in the right direction and we will keep fighting,” he said.
Coma’s teammate Jordi Viladoms was unhappy about having lost time at the start of the stage, “My concentration was not good and I put too much focus on riding the bike and trying to push. I took the wrong track and I lost eight minutes.” Faria, who had been riding with Viladoms suffered the same fate but was quite philosophical, saying “It’s like this in the Dakar, tomorrow is another day and I will try to be better.”
Team Manager Alex Doringer said that although Viladoms and Faria had lost time in the stage he was confident they would improve in the coming days. “They are still in a good position overall and they will get better day by day because they both have a lot of experience.”
Walkner of Austria said he believed it had been his best stage yet and said he was getting more comfortable with the navigation and conditions as the rally progressed. Doringer was also very complimentary about his two newcomers Walkner and Price, saying: “Young Matthias and Toby are doing a great job. After five days I think everybody can recognize the potential and the talent of these two guys.” Riders of the Red Bull KTM Factory team and the KTM-supported riders are competing on the KTM 450 RALLY.
Stage six takes riders from Antofagasta to Iquique over a total distance of 688 km, of which 319 is timed special.
Dakar Rally Stage Five (provisional)
Copiapó to Antofagasta – 235 km liaison, 458 km special (697 km)
1, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 4 hours 38.16
1, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 2.16
3, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 2.40
4, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 3.54
5, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda at 4.37
6, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 6.36
7, Jeremias Israel Esquerre, CHI at 7.10
8, Matthias Walkner, Austria, KTM, 7.24
9, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco, at 9.57
10, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 10.05
11, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM, at 13.48
12, Joan Pedrero, ESP, Yamaha at 14.25
13, Javier Pizzolito, ARG, Honda at 16.49
14, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM at 16.55
15, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 17.24
16, David Casteu, FRA, KTM, at 17.47
17, Riaan van Niekerk, RSA, KTM, at 22.52
24, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM 42.47
Overall Standings after Stage 5
1, Barreda 17 hours 51.05
2, Coma at 10.33
3, Goncalves, at 22.50
4, Quintanilla at 31.06
5, Viladoms at 36.23
6, Faria at 38.13
7, Walkner at 38.36
8, Price at 39.54
9, Svitko at 42.05
10, Rodrigues, 43.24
14, Casteu at 1:04.27
15, Van Niekerk at 1:11.04
18, Jakes at 1:13.18
24, Przygonski at 1:59.21
Route Stage Six (Friday, January 9, 2015) Antofagasta to Iquique – 369 km liaison, 319 km special (688 km)