Michelin Fills Dakar Podium.

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff
From Michelin:

Frenchman Cyril Despres, winner of the Dakar Rally in 2005, clinched hissecond Dakar success in three years with a controlled final stageperformance around Lac Rose in Dakar on Sunday.

The Team Gauloises KTM rider, benefiting from crucial Michelin support,began the last 16km special 36:09 ahead of Michelin-backed teammate DavidCasteu. But Despres rode cautiously over the potentially treacherous finalkilometers to record the 56th fastest time and secure victory by the marginof 34:19. Casteu was sixth on the final special, which was won by Latvia'sJanis Vinters.

"Even after my mechanical problems in Morocco I never gave up hope," saidDespres. "I had no pressure and just rode as well as I could each day. Iknew that it was a long shot to take the overall victory, because Marc Comawas riding so well. I have great respect for him, but the mistake was a bigshock. To reach Dakar as the winner again is a fantastic feeling for me. Itis a major boost for my confidence."

Michelin-backed American Chris Blais completed the podium line-up on his RedBull Team KTM, as Michelin riders dominated the podium places. The leaderboard had been turned upside down on the penultimate long African stagebetween Kayes in Mali and Tambacounda in Senegal, when long-term leader MarcComa crashed his Team Repsol KTM after losing his way. The Spaniard's demisewas the Frenchman's gain and the dramatic incident handed a comfortable leadto Despres.

"Not too long ago I was riding on the Dakar as an amateur with a trunk ofspare parts and a handful of tires," said Casteu. "Now to finish secondoverall and cross the beach at Lac Rose in a podium position is a dream forme. It was a tough race, but I hope to be able to build on this superbresult for the Gauloises KTM team."

Spaniard Isidre Esteve Pujol also crashed on the stage into Tambacounda, butmanaged to use parts from Coma's stricken bike to repair his KTM at thepassage control. Despite gearbox problems earlier in the race and hisaccident, a troubled Esteve Pujol reached the finish of a dramatic DakarRally outing in 30th position.

In the competitive 450cc category, Honda Europe's Thierry Bethys benefitedfrom Michelin support to finish third overall in the category behindPortugal's Helder Rodrigues and Corsican Michel Marchini. The Frenchman wasalso an excellent eighth in the overall classification.

The highlight of Bethys's race fortnight was the overall third fastest timeon the stage into Tambacounda on his 450 Honda. Yamaha France rival DavidFrétigné received Michelin support, but crashed out of the rally in Atar.

Michelin's renowned Bib Mousse made punctures a thing of the past on thepunishing special stages through Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali andSenegal, but there were still a number of major surprises on the overallleader board.

Coma's Team Repsol KTM colleagues Jordi Viladoms and Giovanni Sala bothreceived support from the French tire manufacturer, but crashed out ofcontention last week. Gearbox problems had delayed Dutch Team Gauloises KTMdebutant Frans Verhoeven, but he too crashed on the stage into Kayes in Maliand retired from the race with two dislocated shoulders.

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