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Despres is Bike champion; Patronelli takes Quad title

by Mikko Jalonen, Dakar correspondent [January 16, 2012]

Despres is Bike champion; Patronelli takes Quad titleOnce a year, the amateurs and the best rally-raid riders of the world all gather together to compete in the toughest rally in the world: The Dakar! The event has became one of the biggest motorsport spectacles of the year and for the teams and riders, winning the Dakar rally is as important as sportscar drivers taking the win in the 24 hours of Le Mans or for a F1 driver to win the Grand Prix of Monaco. Today before being celebrating in Lima, the capital city of Peru, the riders had to get to grip with the sand and dunes one more time in a short 29 km special stage before having a change to relax. Navigation, through wasn‘t as vital as the stage was in pairs of riders, and started in reversed order to give back to the event a more traditional type of ending.

In the Bike Category, Red Bull KTM rider Cyril Despres became the 2012 Dakar champion over his main rival, Marc Coma. Despres took his fourth Bike title; his second since the Dakar rally was moved to South America in 2009. Despres claims this Dakar as the toughest so far as he rode each day swapping places with Coma several times during the rally and just reclaimed the lead with one day to go.

“I always pay attention to detail. I like doing my homework and, in my job, when things go OK you end up winning! Today we won and it's simply fantastic. This is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I've ever raced in. It was difficult physically, but even more psychologically. Challenging yourself every morning and fighting on the course takes its toll on your mind. It's not like a 42-kilometre marathon; here, you have to earn your place every morning. All victories are beautiful, but this one is special because it came down to the wire and was decided at the last minute. This was an unimaginable scenario, with the leaders separated by mere seconds. I've done 90 or 85 rallies throughout my life, and this one was the one where I had to fight the hardest. Today will leave its mark on me. There's only one Stéphane Peterhansel in the world. I don't know if I'm good at driving cars, I've never tried. What I do know is that he's got a good co-pilot, Jean-Paul Cotteret, and I've got a good teammate, Ruben Faria,” said the extremely happy Despres.

Coma, was trailing Despres since the third stage after making a navigational error before claiming back the lead with two stages to go due to excellent team play, but he suffered from a gearbox problem yesterday and made a vital navigation error; therefore handing the Dakar victory to Despres with a short 29 km stage to go. Today the Catalan rider didn´t had any chances to claim the lost time back and had to settle for second. The KTM MRW Rally Dakar EAM Team took second overall, and Coma gave credit to Despres. Since 2005, the two riders have been winning the titles every second year, and already the Catalan rider was already counting his changes to win the title back at next year

“I finished second in what was a difficult rally. I gave it my all every single day. I wish to congratulate Cyril. He's the champion. But I'm going to work hard to try and win again next year. If we keep alternating... it should be my turn! But first I have to work,“ said a motivated Coma.

Third overall was the first and only non KTM to finish in the top 8, Helder Rodrigues. The Portuguese Team Yamaha Racing rider finished third also last year and was more than happy to finish on the podium again. For the next edition Rodrigues will try to find a solution on how to make a step forward to be in the same level with Despres and Coma. With one stage win and another podium in the pocket, it has given a lot of confidence to the rider to achieve a better result next year.

“Making it to the end of a Dakar is always terrific. So finishing on the podium is simply incredible. There are two great riders, Marc and Cyril, and they're tough nuts to crack. I lost 20 minutes in stage 4 and 20 more two days later. I was 40 minutes back, so I knew catching up with them would be hard. Winning the Dakar requires perfect preparation all year round and making sure everything goes well during the race. I'll try and find the solution to be as good as they are. I need a bit more of everything, especially money to build a strong structure,” Rodrigues said.

Fourth in this year Dakar was the Bordone-Ferrari rider, Jordi Viladoms, also using a KTM. The fifth place overall was taken by the Slovakian Oraving Slovnaft Team rider also using a KTM, Stefan Svitko. For the top 5 riders, Svitko was the only one not to take a 15 minute penalty for engine change.

In the todays short 29km special, it was won by the Norwegian rider, Pal Anders Ullevalseter ahead of Coma and third-placed, Svitko. Ullevalseter who finished in second place in Bike category in 2010 and was sixth last year, and today his only stage win came on the last special stage. In the overall standings, the man from Norway was sixth.

In the Quad category, the overall victory was just like last year with the Argentinian rider Alejandro Patronelli on his Yamaha Patronelli Racing took the Quad championship. Alejandro, who won three stages in the 2012 edition of Dakar, controlled the event after taking the lead by winning the demanding seventh stage of the rally.

Alejandro is happy to finish the rally as a winner and wants to thank everyone whom has been cheering for him during the two weeks of action. “The stage was fine. I can't believe the Dakar is over. It was difficult at times but everything turned out okay. It's my second victory. It's very hard to win twice in a row. Last year I suffered a lot with my hand pain, but this year everything was perfect from the beginning to the end. No problems at all. Thank God. I'd like to thank everyone who cheered me on.“

Second in the Quad category was Marcos Patronelli, just like his brother riding for Yamaha Patronelli Racing. Marcos won the Dakar Quad title in 2010 and was forced to have an early withdrawn last year due to injury. This year he rode a solid race despite losing all chances for a win after having a disastrous seventh stage. In the overall race, Marcos scored three stage wins this year.

Third in the Quads was Tomas Maffei riding a Maffei Dakar Team Yamaha. Maffei who led the race before a bad seventh stage, scored four stage wins in a way to a fine third place finish. For Maffei the third place was a huge improvement compared to last year when he finished seventh.

Fourth Overall was the Chilean Quad rider, Ignacio Casele for the Casale Rally Team Yamaha while fifth in the overall rankings was the Uruguan rider, Sergio La Fuente riding a Yamaha of Uruguay Racing Team. Unlike Casele, La Fuente scored two stage wins and led the rally after the first two stages before having two disastrous stages where he was almost forced to retire the race. The First six quads out of 11 quads that finished this year were Yamahas.

In the short 29 km special stage Maffei was fastest 49 seconds faster than La Fuente and 1 minute and 18 seconds ahead the fastest of the two Patronelli brothers, Alejandro.