France’s Cyril Despres defended his motorbike title in the Dakar Rally on Saturday.
It is his fifth title in the bike category, and that ties him in rally history with the inaugural Dakar winner, countryman Cyril Neveu. They are second only to Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar six times on a bike.
Despres was the favorite at this year’s event after his rival in recent years, three-time champion Marc Coma of Spain, didn’t enter because of an injured shoulder. Despres was penalized for changing engines during the race but regained the lead last Tuesday and kept it until the end.
The KTM rider was 17th on Saturday, four minutes behind stage winner Ruben Faria of Portugal. In the overall standings, Despres was 10 minutes and 43 seconds ahead of team-mate Faria, and 18 minutes and 48 seconds ahead of Chile’s Francisco Lopez. Despres said he’s very happy to win the Dakar and added that the day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won’t be interesting any more. He labeled the competition as too tricky to be easy to win.
The truck category saw the comeback of the Kamazs, which took their 11th win and, most importantly, pulled off a stunning 1-2-3 in Santiago with Russians Eduard Nikolaev, Ayrat Mardeev and Andrey Karginov. The quad category was won by Argentine rider Marcos Patronelli.