Red Bull KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain on Saturday sealed his fifth Dakar title and presented KTM with its fourteenth win in this offroad classic. Paolo Goncalves of Portugal took second place and KTM rookie Toby Price of Australia took the minor podium place.
Coma, A Red Bull athlete, rode to the start of the final Stage 13 with a 17-minute lead over Goncalves however riders were unable to complete the 393 km of the final stage into Buenos Aires after heavy rain made the track surface slippery and too dangerous. The race was halted at CP2 and Coma was declared the winner. The win for Coma equals that of his former KTM teammate Cyril Despres and represents the domination of these two riders on the event for a decade.
Coma tackled the Dakar with his usual passion and attention to detail, true to his belief that the only result that counts was that in the final day. He took victory in Stage Five and was top three in six other stages. He also rode with care and prudence in the two marathon stages, nursing a damaged tire in the first and safely bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home across the salt flats of Bolivia in wet conditions that resulted in many riders having to exit the rally after salt clogged their engines and electronics.
Marc Coma: “I’m happy and proud. As usual it was a grueling rally. We had to overcome a problem on the second day that slowed us down a bit in the rankings. So from then on we had to change the strategy a little and push to recover that time. We knew that the marathons would be key stages and they were. I am happy with the team and the people we have around us. This fifth win says a lot about all of us.” Coma also congratulated his two rivals Joan Barreda and Paolo Goncalves who he said were tough opponents. “The level was very high and this also makes the win very valuable,” he added.
The 2015 rally was an emotional roller coaster for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team and the KTM-supported riders. Factory racer Sam Sunderland got things off to a brilliant start with a solid first stage win, only to get lost at the tail end of Stage Two in what was the longest stage in the 2015 edition. He then crashed out early in Stage Three and had to retire.
At the same time it was already clear that two young pretenders, KTM-supported Dakar newcomers Matthias Walkner of Austria and Australian Toby Price were out to impress. Both came to the Dakar with only one rally under their tires having raced the Morocco Rally in October. Both were also new to road book-style navigation.
Walkner drew attention early. After finishing 8-6 in the two opening stages he then won Stage Three. The rest of his rally saw him making great recoveries after difficult days until he finally succumbed to altitude sickness and stomach problems in Stage Nine and had to withdraw. It was an unfortunate end for a rider with great potential and as yet little experience and he exited after making his mark as a rider to watch in the future.
Price, a four-time winner of Australia’s Finke Desert classic said at the beginning of the rally that navigation would be difficult. He did have some difficulties in stages 4-6 but by the time he started in the final stage he had eight top five finishes and including a win in Stage 12. Price by then had moved up to third overall and was able to make it stick until the race was declared over.
Regular Red Bull KTM Factory rider Ruben Faria of Portugal finished sixth overall, which was a solid result given that Faria had broken his collarbone only six weeks before the rally. His teammate Jordi Viladoms was one rider who was unable to finish the difficult stage over the Bolivian salt flats. Villadoms was fifteenth overall when he retired from the race. KTM-supported rider Riaan van Niekerk also retired after Stage Seven left Bolivia. He was overall twelfth. Jakub Przygonski of Poland, a regular KTM-supported rider who competes for Team Orlen was eighteenth overall. He has had a difficult season after a serious injury in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of 2014.
Line honors in the final shortened stage went to three KTM riders. Ivan Jakes of Slovakia won the stage. Countryman Stefan Svitko finished second and Price was third. Svitko finishes fifth overall and Jakes was eighth overall. KTM riders took seven of the top 10 places in the 2015 edition.
The Dakar 2015 was indeed a battle of attrition. Of the 168 starters in the bikes division only 78 were on the starting line for the final run into Buenos Aires.
Dakar Rally 2015
Final Overall Results
1, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 46.03.49 (5th Dakar title for Coma; 14th for KTM)
2, Paolo Goncalves, POR Honda at 16.53
3, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 23.14
4, Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM at 38.38
5, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 44.17
6, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 1:57.50
7, David Casteu, FRA, KTM at 2:00.14
8, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM at 2:18.18
11, Hans Vogels, NDL, KTM, at 3:31.50
14, Paolo Ceci, ITA, KTM at 4:58.14
18, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM 6:21.12
Stage 13 Results
Please note: Final stage was halted at CP2 because of heavy rain deemed by organizers to make the surface too slippery and dangerous to continue the stage
1, Jakes, KTM at 52.06
2, Svitko, KTM at 00.45
3, Price, KTM at 1.07
4, Goncalves, 1.15
5, Coma, KTM, at 3.11
6, Vogels, KTM at 3:36
7, Frans Verhoeven, NDL, Yamaha at 4.35
8, Qunitanilla KTM, at 4.52
9, De Soultrait, FRA, Yamaha at 5.54
10, Lila Sanz, ESP, Honda at 7.55
12, Casteu, KTM at 8.16
15, Ceci, KTM at 9.51
16, Faria, KTM at 9.22