Victory for Despres in Tunisia Rally
Cyril Despres triumphed over fellow KTM factory teammate Marc Coma in the final eleventh stage of the Tunisia Rally to steal overall victory in the second round of the 2009 World Championship and level the score at 1-1 between the two rivals.
Right from day one of the 4500 km route it was clear that the two KTM riders were going to be each other's toughest rivals. But with the world's top six riders all onboard KTM machines the Tunisia Rally was clearly an overwhelming victory for the cult brand "Made in Austria" machines.
Despres crossed the final finish line with a margin of 5 minute 57 seconds after the race that started back on March 22 and took competitors on a loop through Tunisia, into Libya and then back to Tunisia for the finish. After Coma's win in Round One of the championships in the Desert Challenge Abu Dhabi, the Frenchman was happy to even up the score.
Despres enjoys first victory of the season
"I am especially pleased as my first rally was here back in 1998. A few years later I am still here with a great bike and a great team. To win here on a technical route where navigation takes on a real importance makes victory even sweeter. With Marc it is always extremely close but up until now it has all gone is way this year. KTM have entered Marc and me into all the World Championship rounds. Marc won in Abu Dhabi and I win here. In three weeks we will be in Sardinia to fight it out again," said Despres at the conclusion of the rally.
Coma collects valuable points in the competition
"Even if I missed the win it was important to finish second so I could take as many points as possible for the World Championship. I am very happy to have participated in the Tunisia Rally where I felt good on the bike and navigated well. It was a big rally with 11 days of racing and very varied terrain and it's always something special to return to Africa," Coma said.
Plenty of drama in second half of the rally
The second half of the Tunisia Rally delivered plenty of drama with strong winds causing organisers to cancel Stage Six which saw Coma have the slimmest of three minutes 41 seconds lead on Despres. Riders travelled by road to the bivouac but were in for a restless night. "We were all sleeping in three tents when at about 3 o'clock in the morning they all took off with a huge gust of wind. It was chaos as everybody tried to gather up their things and find somewhere to sleep," Despres recalled.
Coma extends lead in Stage Seven
A long 410km Stage Seven saw the riders cross into Libya during which Cyril made several small navigation errors allowing Marc to extend his lead by several minutes. "The stage was very long and the first part was very technical and physical with lots of stones and tricky trials type of terrain. Then the terrain began to open up and we found faster tracks and it was easier. I caught Cyril at around kilometre 100 and we rode together to the finishing line," Coma said at the conclusion.
Despres finally takes the edge in Stage Eight
The turning point for Coma came in Stage Eight when his mousse melted and he had to ride to the line on his rim. Meanwhile, riding to preserve his own tyres, Despres won the special and advanced to take an overall lead over his Spanish rival of just shy of nine minutes. With some tricky navigation on the menu for Stage Nine and Cyril first off, he was caught by Marc at the 90 km mark and the two attacked until the finish. It was another stage win for Coma who eroded Cyril's lead to just four minutes 57 seconds and setting the stage for a tense conclusion of the rally.
Drama continued on the tenth stage when organisers called it to a halt at the 134-kilometre mark after an accident in the car category. Coma was the fastest to that point and had shaved Cyril's lead to a mere 3m 57, leaving the race wide open or the two final loops of 81km and 73km in the final stage. Despres prevailed to conclude a gripping rally with virtually nothing separating the two KTM riders at the end of Round Two.
1. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
2. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 5 minutes 57 seconds
3. Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, KTM, 53 minutes 17
4. Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM 53m 30 seconds
5. Pal Anders Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM, 1:22.43
6. David Casteu, France, KTM 2:10.31