Coma finished just over 15 minutes ahead of fellow KTM rider and defending champion Cyril Despres to take the motorcycle class for the 2011 Dakar Rally. Despres was assessed a 10-minute penalty earlier in the race, so the result could have been much closer for the two KTM riders. Third place went to Yamaha rider Helder Rodrigues who finished 1 hour 40 minutes behind Coma.
“Staying focused was essential so I did focus on my riding. It was the only way to win,” says Coma. “What was really tough was that I could not let my guard down, not even for a second. When a tough stage was ending, the next one was even tougher. We all know that a Dakar is a difficult race but this year it was particularly difficult. This victory is the reward of all the hard work, the reward of many years and a lot of tensions over the last few days. It is the bonus you get for steering right and for so many sacrifices over the years.”
KTM continued to dominate the Dakar Rally despite the change in maximum displacement to 450cc. Coma and Despres, rode the new KTM 450 Rally Replica instead of the KTM 690 that also claimed the top two positions in the 2010 race. Coma won five stages while Despres took three to give the pair eight out of the total 13 stages.
Rodrigues was a bit of a surprise in third place. The stage 6 winner trailed Aprilia rider Francisco Lopez by 43 minutes with 113 miles remaining in the final stage. The rear suspension on Lopez’s RXV 450 Tuareg broke not long afterward, and he was eventually towed across the finish by teammate Alain Duclos, but Rodrigues had crossed the line second to claim the final podium position by just under 30 minutes.
“It was unbelievable. Thirty kilometers before the finish and the suspension link was broken, and I crossed the line pulled by Alain Duclos,” says Lopez. “These are things that happen in the Dakar. Now, we have to forget it and focus in the evolution of the bike and what we can do next year.”
Coma displayed good sportsmanship earlier in the rally, coming to the aid of a fallen rider. During the fifth stage, Coma and BMW rider Paulo Gonçalves came across Yamaha rider Olivier Pain who was unconscious with a broken wrist. Pain had to be taken by helicopter to receive medical treatment. Gonçalves and Coma were awarded for their sportsmanship by having some time taken off for helping an injured racer. In Gonçalves’ case, the modified time moved him from second to first in the stage, giving BMW its first stage victory since 2000.
“It was a very difficult stage, very long but also very beautiful,” says Goncalves said. "I think I rode it well. After the refuelling point, I stopped to help Olivier Pain who had fallen. The rules say we should stop. I waited for four to five minutes. The main thing is that he's okay.”