When riders set out at Mar Del Plata on the Atlantic coast of Argentina on January 1 there were 178 in the start list of Dakar 2012. Now in Copiapo, Chile for the one rest day of the 2012 rally after nearly 4500 km the 33rd edition of the world toughest motor sports event it has again evolved into the tale of two riders: Cyril Despres and Marc Coma of the KTM factory team.
French rider Despres is in the overall lead with a cushion of almost eight minutes on teammate Marc Coma of Spain. But that is only half of the story. Third placed Helder Rodrigues of Portugal is almost 50 minutes behind Despres and that will be very difficult to overcome. Both KTM riders are attempting to win their third Dakar title and KTM, the Austrian sports bike specialist is looking at a potential eleventh consecutive title. KTM’s riders have one every edition since 2001, except in 2008 when the rally was cancelled on the eve of departure from Lisbon following security threats in North Africa. KTM also overcame a surprise change of engine size imposed by the rally organizers that reduced allowable engine size down to 450 cc. This was a move that was largely viewed as an effort to break the company’s stranglehold on the bike category.