After more than 9000 km through the often challenging and always spectacular scenery of Argentina and Chile, KTM factory rider Marc Coma crossed the line as the outstanding winner to claim the prize as the first winner of a Dakar held in South America. With the Dakar 2009, KTM, the company that is always "Ready to Race" not only celebrated the top two podium positions; eight of the top 10 riders were onboard KTM machines, underlining dominance of the sports machines "Made in Austria".
The figure of Coma, the tall Spaniard hunched over his machine and way out in front became the most lingering visual memory of what competitors agreed was probably the most difficult Dakar in the long history of the world's toughest rally. After more than 52 hours on the bike Coma came home 1h25'38 ahead of fellow KTM factory rider Frenchman Cyril Despres. Coma's victory was not only deserved but also served to blur the memories of losing the last Dakar in 2007 through injury in the very final stages and the last minute cancellation of the 2008 Dakar in Africa because of security concerns. Coma thus reclaims the number one plate from Despres to register his second Dakar title and described his feelings saying "happiness doesn't even come close".
Despres underlines his fighting spirit
And while Despres had to settle for second place, he more than underlined his warrior status with a superb race for second. Beset with problems in the early stages of the rally, Despres fought his way back from twenty second place to win a whole string of stages and get right back into contention. He fought the good fight against Frenchman David Fretegne for second place and was generous in his praise of Coma's victory saying he rode a "truly excellent race". The two may be rivals in any major competition but they still share the bond of being KTM's two leading rally factory riders. Despres also said although he was disappointed not to win it had been a "personal triumph" to fight his way back and find the motivation to continue to ride and to race. The other two KTM factory riders, Jordi Viladoms (Spain) and Alain Duclos (France) whose principle task was to support the two leaders came in seventh and thirty second respectively.
A Dakar to remember
The race, that started in Buenos Aires, went south across the Pampa to Patagonia then west across the Andes to the deserts of Chile, north along the coast to La Serena, continued to Copiapo and the notorious Atacama Desert, reputedly the world's driest, then back across the Andes to ultimately finish back in the Argentine capital. Ironically it was fog and rain that interrupted the second half of the rally causing Stage 11 to be canceled and Stage 13 to be shortened. In addition, no competitor will forget Stage 12, including the formidable white dunes that delivered some of the toughest challenges and the most spectacular images of what will always remain a Dakar to remember. Also unforgettable was the enthusiasm of the crowds in Argentina and Chile who celebrated the race for what it really is: the world's greatest rally.