Dakar heads to grand finale

For its arrival in Peru, the Dakar 2012 saw Cyril Despres win his 4th stage of this year's rally and gain extra time over Marc Coma, with a lead of now 2'22” in the general standings. More significantly, this 11th stage has genuinely proven that the confrontation between the two men is starting to resemble a chess match. Robby Gordon would have liked to play at this game right to the finish, but in the car race the American suffered mechanical problems and lost more than one hour today, leaving the way open for the general standings leader, Stephane Peterhansel, who won his 25th stage in a car on the Dakar.

Whilst the Dakar history books will note that Cyril Despres was the first rider to win in Peru, the 27th country to welcome the caravan of the world's biggest rally-raid, the records of today's stage will note that the Frenchman gained a bit of breathing space in the general standings between Ari ca and Arequipa. Indeed, by settling on catching up with Marc Coma, who set off just before him this morning, then following him all day, the Frenchman put in a strategically perfect performance to pick up his 30th stage victory on the Dakar and more significantly gain 2'01” over the Catalan.

He will definitely be needing it! This 11th special stage also saw a strategic battle from the Coma clan, who worked to place its leader in an ideal position in before the big special of dunes between Arequipa et Nasca. Catalan Gerard Farres Guell attacked all along the 478 km of special to finally achieve the 2nd best time of the day, 1'39” behind Despres. As a result, Farres Guell will start tomorrow in front of his friend Marc Coma, on the 12th stage, allowing Coma the possibility to “easily” regain 4 minutes over the Frenchman. Furthermore, another Gallic rider Johnny Aubert, promoted to water carrier for Coma after the withdrawal of Pedrero yesterday, also put in a superb performance to accomplish the 4th best time of t! he day a nd will now start the next stage just behind his leader.

However, for the moment, Cyril Despres has reinforced his position as general standings leader, with a lead that now stands at 2'22” over his best enemy. Behind them, Helder Rodrigues experienced a difficult day after stalling on a river crossing at the 21-km point of the special, which led to him losing 7'44” at the finishing line! The Portuguese rider is still well placed on the 3rd step of the provisional podium with a lead of 16'06” over fourth placed rider Jordi Viladoms.

In the car race, Robby Gordon has lost his chance of triumph on a day marked by a breakdown of his cardan suspension that stopped him for more than an hour of repairs, leaving the road open to the Minis for the final battle. In the inter-team duel that Stephane Peterhansel and Nani Roma are now involved in, the Frenchman took another step towards his 10th title, in all categories, by winning his 25th stage in a car on the Dakar, 3'44” ahead of his Catalan team-mate. In the general standings, “Peter” now boasts a lead of 22'49” over Roma. Benefitting from Gordon's problems, South African Giniel de Villiers has climbed on to the third step of the provisional podium, admittedly 1 hour 11 minutes behind the leader, but still has a good chance of keeping this position until Lima.

In the quad race, the game seems to be up in light of the Patronelli brothers' domination of their rivals. Alejandro, the title holder and category leader since the 7th stage, achieved his 10th stage victory on the Dakar and his 3rd in 2012, once again in front of his younger sibling, Marcos. Tomas Maffei, the only rider who is showing a fragment of resistance to the men from Las Flores, conceded more time today, finishing 18'57” behind, and seems to be resigned to the fact. This is not surprising, when in the general standings Alejandro Patronelli now boasts a lead of 1 hour and 20 minutes over Marcos and 1:55'43 over their countryman Maffei. In 4th, Ign! acio Cas ale trails the leader by more than 5 hours!