Defending Dakar Rally champion Marc Coma (pictured) clawed back more than two minutes from rival Joan Barreda in winning Thursday’s Stage 5 from Copiapo to Antofagasta, Chile.
KTM rider Coma overtook Barreda early in the 458km special stage and stayed steady for the remainder en route to a 2-minute, 16-second victory over his Honda rival. With the win, Coma has cut Barreda’s overall advantage to 10 minutes, 33 seconds.
Having to deal with the dreaded fesh-fesh – that finely ground sand that can spell disaster for any off-road racer – kept Coma on his toes.
“It was a very tough stage. There was fesh-fesh all the time and in the fesh-fesh, you cannot see the stones and it is not comfortable to ride,” he said. “You are always having to pay attention. After 30 km, I was at the front and opening the stage again. I tried to lead at a good pace and not take to many risks, because today was very tricky.
“At the end, I’m happy how the day was. It’s going to be very difficult to take time from Joan, but, you know, we have a lot of racing in front of us. There’s the second part of the rally and we’ll have two marathon stages. We will try like hell until the last day. We know that Joan is very fast and that he has a very high level, but we will try, for sure.”
Sherco rider Alain Duclos (ninth on Thursday) was also vivid in his imagery of the stage, noting that while competitors could run fast on the wide tracks, hitting the bumps were like, in his words, “stepping on landmines.”
“Frankly, this stage was like a punishment: I hated it,” he said. “I was expecting it to be like that. My arms are hurting, I’ve no strength left in my hands and I’m right at the limit. There was no respite. You had to keep your wits about you from the start to the finish.
“…Even if the suspensions did worked as well as they could, my arms, thighs and back are done in. I’m just happy to finish this special in one piece. I set off thinking this stage would cause plenty of damage and on the face of it, I wasn’t wrong.”
Having another great day in Stage 5 was Pablo Quintanilla, who has picked up the pace in his homeland. The Chilean scored his second consecutive third-place finish on Thursday at 2 minutes, 40 seconds behind fellow KTM’er Coma. He’s also moved up to fourth in the overall at a little over eight minutes back of third-place Paulo Goncalves.
Fourth place on Thursday went to Slovakia’s Stefan Svitko, and Goncalves himself completed the stage’s Top 5.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues Friday at 4 p.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 5 – Copiapo to Antofagasta)
1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 17hrs, 51mins, 5secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 10hrs, 33mins
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), +22mins, 50secs
4. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 31mins, 6secs
5. 4-Jorge Viladoms (KTM), + 36mins, 23secs
6. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 38mins, 13secs
7. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), +38mins, 36secs
8. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 39mins, 54secs
9. 18-Stefan Svitko (KTM), + 42mins, 5secs
10. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 43mins, 24secs