The 2010 Dakar Rally took a day off yesterday, giving competitors a chance to recuperate and organizers a chance to resolve claims that Spanish KTM rider Marc Coma, a top challenger for the motorcycle title, had performed an illegal tire change during stage 7 the day before. Late Saturday, rally officials announced that Coma was indeed guilty of the infraction and handed him a six-hour penalty.
Noting “the stop he made behind a house and the images we have thanks to Google which show exactly where he stopped and for how long, coupled with today’s high definition images of the tire… these images are clear, the tire did not do 200km,” said moto course director Marc Ducrocq.
“The decision has therefore been taken by the organizers to hand him a six-hour penalty. Everyone knew that he had tire problems. He tried to sort it out in his own way and he was caught,” said Ducrocq.
Coma, the Dakar champion in 2006 and 2009, denied any wrongdoing.
“I consider this decision an injustice. At no time can it be proved that I changed a wheel,” said Coma
The penalty means fellow KTM sponsored rider Cyril Despres is almost certain to claim the championship, as he was already just over an hour ahead of his Spanish rival.
Initially threatening to withdraw, after the infraction knocked him from 2nd to 24th overall, Coma ultimately decided not to give up and put in another strong performance today, finishing the eighth leg in second spot, 42 seconds behind local rider “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo, and moving up to 19th overall. Despres finished 6’43” off the pace in fifth spot, but still maintains a commanding overall lead, 1:20:31 ahead of his closest rival, Norwegian KTM racer Pal Ullevalseter.
Canadian Patrick Trahan continues to soldier on, ending the day in 59th overall, though it looks like the Honda rider also fell afoul of the officials today, as the standings show him suddenly allotted a 1 hour and 2 minute penalty. No word yet on what happened, but we’ll let you know once we find out.
Meanwhile, watch the stage 8 recap below.
2010 Dakar Rally Stage 8 Results
1. LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) APRILIA 05:29:25
2. COMA (ESP) KTM 05:30:07 00:00:42
3. ULLEVALSETER (NOR) KTM 05:30:47 00:01:22
4. FRETIGNE (FRA) YAMAHA 05:32:44 00:03:19
5. DESPRES (FRA) KTM 05:36:08 00:06:43
6. DUCLOS (FRA) KTM 05:36:08 00:06:43
7. RODRIGUES (PRT) YAMAHA 05:41:15 00:11:50
8. PRZYGONSKI (POL) KTM 05:43:32 00:14:07
9. PAIN (FRA) YAMAHA 05:47:25 00:18:00
10. SVITKO (SVK) KTM 05:47:59 00:18:34
2010 Dakar Rally Overall Standings
1. DESPRES (FRA) KTM 33:46:21
2. ULLEVALSETER (NOR) KTM 35:06:52 01:20:31
3. LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) APRILIA 35:10:42 01:24:21
4. RODRIGUES (PRT) YAMAHA 35:11:36 01:25:15
5. DUCLOS (FRA) KTM 35:38:50 01:52:29
6. FRETIGNE (FRA) YAMAHA 35:48:54 02:02:33
7. STREET (USA) KTM 36:14:53 02:28:32
8. PAIN (FRA) YAMAHA 36:28:20 02:41:59
9. BERGLUND (SWE) KTM 36:35:02 02:48:41
10. PEDRERO GARCIA (ESP) KTM 36:36:36 02:50:15