KTM’s Marc Coma is poised and ready to assume control of the third round of the World Cross Country Rally Championship sitting in a perfect tactical position, two and a half minutes behind leader and KTM rider Jordi Villadoms of Spain after day three.
The three times Dakar Rally winner took Stage Five of the rally on Tuesday on a day where temperatures soared and forced the cancelation of Stage Six, which was to be the marathon and key decider of the event. Organizers reported that they were forced to cancel the stage because of threats of forest fires on the Italian island. The KTM factory rider finished two minutes ahead of veteran French rally exponent Stephane Peterhansel to move form third in the overalls to a comfortable second place.
Coma has the chance of sealing the 2012 title in the third of this four round championship having won the opening two rallies (The UAE Desert challenge and the Sealine Rally in Qatar) but this is different terrain and much more akin to Enduro racing than the shifting sands of the desert. He has chosen the KTM 450 EXC instead of the KTM 450 Rally bike and admitted he did experience some navigation problems in Monday’s stages, saying that his recent outing in the US to contest the Baja 500 for KTM USA had been strength-sapping. Riders must be at peak fitness to contest this leg of the championship, given the extreme heat of the Sardinian summer.
With two days still to go, the KTM bikes are living up to their reputation as a leading offroad machine. Seven of the top ten riders in the overall standings are on the ‘Made in Austria’ bikes, including two of Coma’s KTM factory teammates. Ruben Faria of Portugal, third in Stage Five and currently sixth overall and Joan Pedrero of Spain, Coma’s so-called “water carrier” (support rider) for the Dakar who is presently overall tenth. This round Faria also has extra duties. He is taking care of Cyril Despres’ team of amateur riders on behalf of KTM’s French factory rider and arch rival to Coma. Despres had planned to compete but had to withdraw at the last minute because of family matters.
Riders now face one special of 181 km tomorrow, Wednesday, and complete the rally on Thursday with two more stages of 80.8 km and 40.3 km to finish. The course has taken them on a sweeping loop of the picturesque Mediterranean island.
Overall after Day Three
1, Jordi Villadoms, Spain KTM, 7 hours 22 minutes 43.01 seconds
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM at 2.27.21
3, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM at 5.49.25
4, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha at 6.04.47
5, Gerard Farres, Spain, KTM at 7.51.65
6, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM at 10.00.66
7, Paolo Ceci, Italy, KTM at 10.11.98
8, Stephane Peterhansel, France, Yamaha at 11.52.54
9, Paulo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 12.12.12
10, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 15.36.40
12, Matteo Graziani, Italy, KTM at 27.06.57
13, Jakub Przgonski, Poland, KTM at 28.15.38
Stage Five Day Three
1, Coma, 1:20.31.00
2, Peterhansel 1:22.43.17
3, Faria 1:22.52.78
4, Botturi, 1:23.21.41
5, Rodrigues, 1:23.27.91
6, Villadoms, 1:23.32.94
Note: Organizers canceled Stage Six on Tuesday because of risk of forest fires on the island of Sardinia