News 18 Jan 2015

Coma clinches 2015 Dakar as Price stars with podium

Australian finishes third overall on debut in Dakar Rally.

Source: KTM.

Source: KTM.

Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma claimed his fifth Dakar Rally victory on Saturday afternoon, with Australian KTM teammate Toby Price starring on his way to third position overall on debut.

Ivan Jakeš won the final stage, however the spotlight was on Coma, who drew upon his experience to take his fifth Dakar win and match Cyril Despres in the process.

The result puts Coma just one triumph away from the record held by legend Stéphane Peterhansel. Their equal number of wins takes on a special dimension considering the dominance of the two men throughout the last 10 editions of the Dakar, as well as the good-natured competition which fuels their ambition.

For the first time in 10 years, Despres was not there to take the fight to Coma, having switched to the car category this year, but the Spaniard still had to fight tooth and nail for his resounding victory in Buenos Aires.

As in 2014, Joan Barreda was clearly the toughest rival the KTM rider came up against in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. The HRC rider won stage two with the added bonus of the overall lead, opening a crucial 12-minute gap thanks to the latter’s tyre problems.

From the very next stage, the two Spaniards played cat and mouse, riding together and taking turns to claw back the two minutes separating them at the start of the special. This little game lasted several days to the benefit of Barreda, who looked like he had finally acquired the experience needed to fight for victory until the end without making any mistakes.

But Coma bided his time like a feline waiting to pounce at the slightest opportunity. Marc found an opening in stage eight after his Spanish rival suffered a mechanical. The number two Honda, damaged by the crossing of the waterlogged Salar de Uyuni, had to be towed to Iquique by Jeremías Israel Esquerre.

This decisive turn of events gave Coma the reins of the rally, which he kept until Buenos Aires. Although the KTM rider still had to see off a determined Paulo Gonçalves, who was out to avenge the honour of HRC, thwarted by its Austrian nemesis for the third time since its official rally raid comeback.

As well-deserved and amazing was Price’s third step on the podium. The 27-year-old rookie from down under was third for stage 13 and will be worth keeping an eye on in upcoming editions.

The KTM rider claimed stage 12 and kept getting stronger as the race went on, pulling off an impressive streak of eight top five places and bested Pablo Quintanilla for third place at the end of the rally, making him the best rookie since his fellow countryman Andy Haydon in 1998.

“It started pouring 70 kilometres into the stage,” Price explained. “It was extremely tough to keep going. Then they shortened the special. Being here in third place is insane – I’m at a loss for words. When I decided to sign up three or four months ago, I was quite nervous, because I didn’t know what I was getting into. And now I’m on the finish line… happy.”

Quintanilla has good reason to be happy with his rally after having to withdraw from his first two editions of the Dakar, winning the gruelling eighth stage. He too will probably come back with loftier goals in 2016.

Among those who did not make it to the finish, Sam Sunderland will be seeking to bounce back and gain consistency in 2016 after winning the first special this year, just like Matthias Walkner, who also won a stage in his maiden Dakar and represents the new generation of rally raid together with Price.

Laia Sanz did reach Buenos Aires and showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 2015 edition, claiming a fantastic fifth place in Iquique and, even more importantly, ninth overall up there with the big guns. The Catalan even beat Olivier Pain, who barely had any presence in the race for Yamaha.

Australians Llewellyn Sullivan-Pavey and Simon Pavey finished in order of 62nd and 63rd, after ending the rally in formation during stage 13 in 78th and 79th positions.

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