KTM’s rally supremo Cyril Despres had a good day at the office on Thursday taking his second stage win in the new Desafio Litoral Rally and extending his overall lead to almost six minutes in this new six stage-rally in Argentina, part of the ‘Dakar Series’.
KTM riders filled the top three places in the stage with Poland’s Jakub Przgonski finishing one minute 31 behind Despres and KTM factory teammate Taddy Blazusiak in third and trailed the leader by about nine minutes. While Despres, a four-times Dakar winner is one of the world’s greatest exponents of the sport and Przgonski is also a top rally rider, Blazusiak is KTM’s Extreme Enduro and EnduroCross specialist. He is in Argentina experiencing rally for the first time to ‘stay on two wheels’ during the US EnduroCross Championship’s summer break.
Despres and Przgonski are also 1-2 in the overall standings with two stages to go but Taddy crashed out in Tuesday’s stage and is just going along for the experience. Wednesday’s Stage Three was scrapped due to heavy fog that made it impossible for the accompanying rescue helicopters to be airborne.
Speaking after Thursday’s stage Despres said he felt he was back in terrain similar to the Dakar. “Today the track was flatter and sandy. We were no longer on the hard pack red earth and on the narrow jungle trails like in the first two stages. That red earth could be very unpredictable and slippery like ice,” he said. “The average speed today was 120 km/h so it was also very fast. The distance between Przgonski and me was not that big but I felt I was controlling the race. I’m feeling good and confident, the bike is going well and I’m looking forward to the next two days.” Cyril is riding his Dakar-winning KTM 450 Rally bike.
It was also a good day for Taddy, especially as when he crashed out on Tuesday he had somewhat aggravated an old shoulder injury. “When I first started riding this morning I was in quite a lot of pain, but it got better as the day went on,” he said. “Today was a good day and for sure the riding is getting better. I still have a lot to learn with the road book and navigation, which is not easy at such high speeds but now it’s becoming more automatic and I am having fun.” Taddy is riding a KTM 450 series model rally bike similar to the one used by KTM Enduro Factory Rider Johnny Aubert in the 2012 Dakar Rally, also his first venture away from the rigors of Enduro racing.
Riders had an unexpected ‘rest day’ on Wednesday after the cancellation of Stage Three but they had a long hard ride on Thursday with a Dakar-like race distance of 427.10 km over two stretches and separated by a liaison of 216 km. Thursday’s stage from Bella Vista to Correntes was the longest and most demanding of this six-day event.
It now looks like the rally will be decided between Despres and Przgonsi who have put significant distance between them and the rest of the field. Up until today Chilean KTM rider ‘Chaleco’ Lopez was also in the running but he had technical problems today and lost too much time to be able to catch the leaders in the remaining two days.
Results Stage Four (Stage Three was canceled because of adverse weather)
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM 3:28.17
2, Jakub Przgonski, Poland, KTM, at 1.31
3, Taddy Blazusiak, Poland, KTM, at 8.51
4, Mauricio Gomez, Argentina, Yamaha, at 13.17
5, Jeremias Israel, Honda, at 16.00
6, Juan Salvatierra, Bolivia, Honda, at 16.27
7, Javier Pizzolito, Argentina, Honda at 20.30
8, Pablo Rodriguez, Argentina, Honda at 21.06
9, Juan Ortiz, Argentina, Yamaha at 29.56
10, Adrian Sansaloni, Argentina, Beta 43.03
Overall results after Stage Four (of Six)
1, Despres, 10 hours 32.16
2, Przgonski at 5.44 minutes
3, Gomez at 57.08
4, Israel, at 1:14.11
5, Pizzolito, 1:32.23
6, Rodriguez, 1:33.42
7, Ortiz, 3:00.07
8, Demian Guiral, Argentina, Honda, 3:04.24
9, Sansaloni, 3:16.21
10, Laurent Lazard, Uruguay, Yamaha, 3:41.48