Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma advanced from fourth to second in the overall rankings after riders completed Stage Four of the Dakar 2015 on Wednesday when the rally entered Chile. Coma was second in the stage, finishing just 1.59 behind Joan Barreda of Spain who continues to lead overall.
Coma a Red Bull athlete, rode the 318km special in three hours, 29 minutes and 27 seconds. Riders had a long 594 km liaison at the start of the day that took them up to an altitude of 4800m before making the descent on the western side of the Andes into the Atacama Desert. The stage started with a hard, rocky surface and fesh-fesh (fine dust) and ended in the deep sand of the Copiapó dunes.
Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said Coma had done a great job in the stage. “Marc was pushing hard all day and did an amazing job. He also did all the navigating as he and Barreda rode together all day.”
Coma’s deficit basically represents the time he lost in Stage Two when he had to slow right down because of tire damage, but the four-time Dakar winner is still feeling satisfied with his progress.
Marc Coma: “This was an important day for me because it would have been easy to lose time in the last 100 km of deep sand and big dunes. I opened the road all day and I tried to make a high rhythm and to push to the maximum. I’m happy to arrive here with no mistakes and everything is getting better for me. We are now in the Atacama and I feel comfortable here.”
The third rider home was Pablo Quintanilla of Chile, also on a KTM, followed by Coma’s Spanish teammate Jordi Viladoms, who said at the end of his ride that it had been a day of really difficult navigation. “I am happy with the overall results but also disappointed because I got lost. I need to be a bit more concentrated and not to make a mistake. Tomorrow I will try to push a bit more and to be more focused. Today there was a lot of valleys and it was difficult to find the right one. Here we always have surprises.”
Fellow teammate Ruben Faria finished just 11 seconds behind Viladoms and commented at the end of the day: “This is our first day in Chile and we started with a very fast track with a lot of fesh-fesh and stones, then towards the end we came into the big dunes of Copiapó. There was a lot of navigation and I made a good job until about 10 km to the end then I got completely lost and lost some minutes. But overall it was a very good day.”
The two KTM newcomers, Stage Three winner Matthias Walkner of Austria and KTM Australia’s Toby Price sacrificed some time with navigational difficulties but also gained a lot of valuable experience as both are on a sharp learning curve.
Walkner had to open the track but said after 15 km he was not 100% sure he was on the right track. “I was right, but I didn’t have the confidence if I didn’t see the lines. Then I found a good rhythm and I was only two minutes behind the leaders at the CP refueling point. Then we were in the dunes and I took the wrong direction and got lost. This was a new experience for me but now we are back to reality and I hope I can do it better tomorrow.”
Price too had a crisis of confidence. “Straight up this morning I got lost following the crest of a hill. I thought I was on the right track but obviously I wasn’t, so I lost a bit of time there. It’s all a learning curve. I knew today would be a little worse results because of the conditions, but all in all, I’m at the finish. I can take a few points from today, learn from them and know where I went wrong.”
Sadly it was the final day for KTM Factory rider Sam Sunderland who had such a great start with a stage win on the opening day. Sam crashed at the 59 km point in Stage Four and fell hard on his shoulder. He was dizzy and was unable to continue. X-Rays have subsequently indicated some slight ligament damage but nothing is broken and no serious injury.
After four stages the bigger picture as reflected in the overall standings sees Barreda and Coma well out in front of the rest of the field. Portugal’s Paolo Goncalves is in third around 15 minutes behind, followed by five KTM riders – Faria, Viladoms, Quintanilla, price and Walkner. With many miles left still to rider, the competition remains wide open.
Thursday’s Stage Five takes riders from Copiapó to Antofagasta for another 697 kilometers, 458 of them timed, through the Atacama Desert. The fesh-fesh will be one of their main opponents.
Dakar Rally Stage Four
Chilecito to Copiapó – 594 km liaison, 315 km special (909 km)
1, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 3:27.28
2, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 1.59
3, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 2.49
4, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM, at 10.44
5, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 10.55
6, Javier Pizzolito, ARG, Honda at 11.29
7, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco, at 12.51
8, Lia Sanz, ESP, Honda at 13.48
9, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 13.51
10, Michael Metge FRA, Yamaha, at 14.32
14, Riaan van Niekerk, RSA, KTM, at 16.17
15, David Casteu, FRA, KTM, at 16.40
16, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 19.41
21, Matthias Walkner, Austria, 22.55
22, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM 23.1
26, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM at 28.28
Overall Standings after Stage 4
1, Barreda 13;10.33
2, Coma at 12.49
3, Goncalves, at 20.29
4, Faria at 23.05
5, Viladoms at 24.51
6, Qunitanilla at 30.42
7, Price at 32.05
8, Walkner at 33.28
9, Duclos at 36.31
10, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 39.05
11, Svitko at 40.27
13, Casteu at 48.56
16, Van Niekerk at 50.28
20, Jakes at 1:11.37
23, Przygonski at 1:18.50
Route Stage Five (Thursday, January 8, 2015) Copiapó to Antofagasta – 235 km liaison, 458 km special (697 km)