Dakar 2014 - exclusive inside from the defending champion

Dakar 2014 - exclusive inside from the defending champion

"When your alarm goes off at 2:40 am, you know that the Dakar has just begun!"- five time Dakar winner and defending champion Cyril Despres (Yamaha Factory Racing)

Stage 1

Rosario > San Luis

405 km link

Special 180 km

224 km link

Total 809 km

Day 1- Map

The first stage of the Dakar 2014 between San Luis and San Rafael, deep into South America's dusty tracks, was won by Joan Barreda (2:25:31), his compatriot Marc Coma finished second by 0'37 and Frenchman Cyril Despres (Yamaha Factory Racing) came third by 1'40. Cyril's teammate Michael Metge finished eighth (4'33), Olivier Pain 16th (6'47) and Frans Verhoeven 18th (6'58).


Cyril Despres

"After the start, it took me a while to find my rhythm and about 50 kilometers from the finish, leaving a canyon, I saw a cloud of dust behind me and I thought, 'Ah yes, Marc is back!' and I sped up a bit. The final position is not very important, but it is good to know that I am (in terms of speed). Overall it was a good day for me and my team during our first step together on the Dakar."

Day 1- Cyril 1

Stage 2

San Luis > San Rafael

304 km link

Special 359 km

62 km link

Total 725 km

Day 2- Map

The pole position for the second stage at the Dakar went to Sam Sunderland (HONDA), followed by Lopez Contardo (KTM) and Barreda third. Cyril finished 10th (08'43), Oliver Pain 12th (11'12), Frans Verhoeven 16th (14'39) and Michael Metge 22nd (22'04). Barreda kept the overall lead, Lopez followed and Sunderland moved up to third place. Cyril was eighth by 08'23, Olivier - 15'59 and Frans by 19'37. The race director checked on the validity of a 41 minutes penalty on Michael Metge for a late arrival at the bivouac.

Day 2- Third

Cyril Despres

"I came too fast at a point towards the 250km mark and went over the handlebars. Fortunately, it was a soft fall and my bike was not damaged, but I lost some time getting back on the road. Overall, a day to forget."

Michael Metge

"It was a good day till we arrived at the bivouac where I came to know that the race director had penalised me of 41 minutes for a late entry to the camp yesterday afternoon - something I didn't understand at all because I came up with Cyril. Currently the organization is seeking info on my GPS to check what time I actually arrived and with a little luck everything should be clarified by tonight. This has somewhat spoiled the enjoyment of the day."


Stage 3

San Rafael > San Juan

292 km link

Special 373 km

Total 665 km

Day 3- Map

Just when we thought that the race began to settle down, the Dakar was back with a series of surprises. Difficult navigation and on-field technical enduro rather have changed the classification of Stage 2. The good news for Cyril Depres though was that he climbed from 8th to 2nd place overall at 13'04 behind Barreda. However, there was bad news for Frans Verhoeven (Verhoeven Yamaha Team - Netherlands) who after a fall, broke his elbow was forced to quit midway. Olivier Pain was back to the 8th position by the end of the day, 36'33 behind the leader.

Michael Metge

"This morning, I promised that I will bring Cyril in; perfect and I'm happy that I kept my promise. I started slowly but I found a great rhythm in other drivers and also maintained a constant speed. Another positive point of the day was the route designed by David Castera; it was simply amazing."

Day 3- Two

Stage 4

San Juan > Chilecito

59 km link

Special 352 km

151 km link

Total 562 km

Day 4- Map

Shortly before today's arrival line Cyril was in the overall lead of the Dakar 2014. But 9 kilometers from the end, a nag in his bike caused a short circuit in the electrical system which caused the stoppage of his motorcycle. The former mechanic fought for 40 agonizing minutes to find and fix the problem. He finished at 16th place and tonight he is 6th place overall behind leader Barreda by 41'17. Michael Metge finished 38th after getting lost at the 247 km mark.

Cyril Despres

"Everything was fine and the strategy that Michael and I had developed by exchanging our tires had gone well. 170 km from the finish I was riding with Marc (Coma) and Joan (Barreda) and shortly after Mark and I had managed to escape. I'd be lying if I said I was not disappointed, but I know how this works and I still want to reach the top of the podium. Could have been so easy to give up and take the first plane to return home, but I love this race, I love to ride my bike and more, I love challenges. And as long as I believe that I have a chance, I will do exactly that - continue to fight "

Michael Metge

"Like Cyril, my day was going very well. The bike worked well, I was in shape and I thought that with all the navigation Cyril could recover time. Then at the 247 km mark there was a change and he had to find a track to the left. But the rain had cleared the markings and I took the wrong river. Unfortunately, the following note was 25 kilometers later, which means that in total I drove further 50 km among large rocks and I lost a lot of time. "


Stage 5

Chilecito > Tucuman

154 km link

Special 527 km

231 km link

Total 912 km

Day 5- Map

Another frustrating day for Cyril Despres as fuel issues forced him to abandon his day prematurely and search for the elusive WP17. He finished 18th and 8th overall till now. In addition to that, he too received a penalty of one extra hour for missing WP. His teammate Michael Metge managed to find the WP. Ending 13th step, Michael is currently 18th at 3h16'03.

Cyril Despres

"I paid particular attention to the engine's temperature and even more so when I noticed that I was using fuel at an alarming rate. I was looking for the famous WP17 but I had to turn around when I realized I did not have enough fuel to go until the end of the stage. I was running on reserve when I stumbled upon a quad driver who gave me a liter and a half. Overall, my problems have cost me 44 minutes which will sum up to a penalty of one hour ... "

Michael Metge

"After yesterday's stage, I started late this morning and I got caught in the dust from the beginning of the stage. After reaching the first set of dunes, I found that after the changes we had done on the suspension, the bike behaved much better than the sand of the second stage. All this allowed me to attack the second batch of dunes with a lot more confidence and I passed a few riders to finish the step at 13th position. Overall, it was not a bad day. "


Stage 6

Tucuman > Salta

37 km link

Special 400 km

28 km link

Total 465 km

After two trying days for Yamaha Factory Racing, Michael Metge gave the team something to cheer - his best stage performance at the Dakar till date, a third place before the 'rest day' at camp Salta. Starting later this morning, Cyril Despres finished 5th (by 02'55) just behind Michael. Olivier Pain lost time at the beginning of the first stage and ended at 14th by 17'01. Overall, Marc Coma kept the lead, Olivier was 6th (by 1:43), Cyril followed at 11th (by 2:24) and Michael Metge 13th (by 3:16).

Cyril Despres

"After the problems yesterday, I started at the 17th position this morning and faced a lot of dust during the first 100 km. Fortunately, most drivers I met on the route were sporting and they let me pass. However, I faced a small nag at the 35 km mark when my Camelbak broke and I had nothing left to drink. The only way out was to borrow few bottles of water from spectators along the track. Later, after the 210 km mark, I passed through the location where Lopez Contardo (KTM) met with an accident earlier and the way the terrain looked, the fall must have been bad! Now we're at the camp for the 'rest day' to recharge ourselves before the second half of the race. They call it a 'rest day' but we riders have a lot of preparation to do for the next stage."

Michael Metge

"This morning, at the start of the special, Cyril asked me to 'enjoy it'. Later, when we spotted the refueling point we compared the amount of dust we had each had our jackets on and he told me 'you should perhaps relax a bit'. That pretty much summed up the contradictory demands of driving a motorcycle on the Dakar: you must feel relaxed and happy in order to ride well but at the same time you have to set your own limits and ride to your fullest. Obviously, I am very satisfied with the result, but the lesson learnt today is much more important."

Day 5- Two

Stage 7

Salta > Salta / Uyuni

334 km link

Special 401 km

33 km link

Total 768 km

The first part of the second stage, which saw the pilots entering Bolivia for the first time during the Dakar, was won by Joan Barreda. The second place went to Marc Coma and Cyril Despres finished third (by 5'35), riding his Yamaha YZF 450 Rally. Michael Metge, Cyril's teammate, finished 17th, 18'31 behind the leader. In the overall standings, Cyril was 10th (by 2'26) and Michael was 14th, by 3'36. Isolated from the rest of the rally, which remained in Argentina, it was impossible to communicate with the drivers to get their opinion about the stage but they hoped the communication to improve by evening.

For now, here's what Cyril had to say on his arrival at the bivouac:

"I took care of my breath while we were on the ridge as we drove at high altitudes and under these conditions, if you ride aggressively, your energy drains out. It was a nice day, not too much navigation but lots of mud. One must be cautious while riding through mud and streams as you might fall or get stuck. When water is brown, you can't make out if it's 20 or 50 cm deep. The motorcycle does not look very pretty covered in mud but we keep cleaning the radiator so that the cooling system works properly."

Stage 8

Salta / Uyuni > Calama

24 km link

Special 462 km

Total 486 km

Day 6- map

Cyril won his first victory on the eighth stage of the Dakar 2014 aboard his YZF 450 Rally. He arrived at the bivouac in Calama 2'09 ahead of Joan Barreda and 2'15 ahead of Marc Coma. Michael Metge also had a great day, finishing 6th tonight, he is now 14th overall.

Cyril Despres

"To be honest I must admit that this morning I was not hoping to win the stage, it was rather an auxiliary result of my determination to pull myself overall. However, I will not deny that I am delighted with the result, both for me and for Yamaha. Yesterday was not easy, a very early departure from the bivouac and rain on the link. Then, at the higher altitude I was not 100%, the little air made it difficult to roll the bike. When we finally arrived at the bivouac in Bolivia, Michael and I took some time to clean the bike and make sure everything was ready for today's special. This morning, we had more rain along the route but fortunately the special was mainly dry. Tomorrow looks to be interesting as there could be a lot of navigation towards Iquique. The opening of the track will not be easy but I'll keep fighting."

Day6- one

Alexander Kowalski, Team Manager

"For us, Cyril's victory today is highly symbolic because it's exactly a year ago that the founder of Yamaha Motor France, Jean-Claude Olivier, died tragically. Finalist in the Dakar, 'JCO' was the one who instilled the culture of rally raid in society, a tradition that has been perpetrated with enthusiasm by his successor Eric Seynes."

Day 6- three

Stage 9

Calama > Iquique

37 km link

Special 422 km

Total 459 km

Day 7- map

After yesterday's victory, Cyril opened the track this morning riding his Yamaha YZF 450 rally. Despite a difficult navigation, he finished the stage in third position and is now eighth overall. Michael Metge lost time in navigation and he crossed the finish line at 18th and is 14th in the overall standings.

Cyril Despres

"I am relieved to have managed to reach the finish line. At the refueling point after the 201 km mark I noticed that I had a fuel leak in one of the rear tanks and the oil was dripping on to the pipe exhaust. I tried to transfer as much fuel as possible to other tanks and hit the road with the hope that everything would be alright. Shortly after crossing the finish line, the motorcycle broke down. I also had a fairly significant drop towards the 250 km mark. Nevertheless, I will continue to fight back and let's see what can be gained before the final finish line."

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Step 10

Iquique > Antofagasta

53 km link

Special 631 km

5 km link

Total 689 km

Day 11 - map

Starting late this morning due to a 15 minute penalty imposed yesterday for crossing the speed limit, Joan Barreda won the stage followed by Cyril Despres and Rodrigues (Yamaha Factory Racing) in third place (9'40 behind). Michael Metge finished at 20th by 34'38. In the sprint to the podium, all drivers from Yamaha Factory Racing progressed overall. Cyril gained two places and moved up to 6th.

Cyril Despres

"I really liked the first stage part in the dunes. I caught up with Marc (Coma), doubled and opened the track. Navigation was not easy but I managed to stay focused and I really enjoyed myself rolling. As is often the case when we have fun, we go faster and recover time. The second stage was a different story, with many hiccups and no driving pleasure. Towards the end, Marc was in front of me before he made a small mistake and we turned too early to a ravine. When we realized our mistake, instead of turning back, we went around attacking a really steep hill to get back on the road book. At the finish line, we had a good laugh at our errors."

Day 11- one

Step 11

Antofagasta > El Salvador

144 km link

Special 605 km

Total 749 km

Day 12 - map

Marc Coma won the stage today and also became the overall leader, Cyril followed close by at second place (2'51 behind). In general, the battle for third place continues. With only two days of racing to the finish in Valparaiso, Cyril is 23'22 behind the podium. Michael Metge finished 11th and climbed to 12th place overall.

Cyril Despres

"6 o'clock and 38 minutes - we had a long way to go today and at the 605 km special we had almost everything - climbs, descents, sand, trails, rivers. I hoped to follow Barreda but unfortunately he declined significantly and destroyed his navigation system, so I ended up opening the track for about 400 kilometers. And inevitably, the opening track is very difficult to recover time. Tomorrow I leave behind Marc and it is likely that I'll have to open the track again."

Michael Metge

"If last year I made this special, I'd have arrived completely exhausted. But this year, despite nearly seven hours on the bike with my new exercise routine, I feel good."

Day 12 - one

Step 12

El Salvador > La Serena

349 km link

Special 350 km

Total 699 km

Cyril Despres had his second stage victory at the Dakar 2014 today and continued to fight for the podium. Joan Barreda, who was ranked second, lost more than 3 hours. In general, Cyril moved up to fourth position just 3 minutes 45 seconds behind Olivier Pain, placed third. Michael Metge had electrical problems and finished 44th and 13th overall.

Day 12 - two

Cyril Despres

"It was a good day - I loved it. I opened the track until the end of the stage again. I caught up with Marc (Coma) very quickly, he let me go. Here, there is only one relatively short step before the end and I'm just minutes from the podium. As always with Yamaha, there are no team orders, so I'll keep going as I have done since the beginning of the race and to try to finish at the best possible position. "

Alexander Kowalski - Team Manager

"Neither Cyril nor Olivier received team orders - this is not the way how Yamaha works. We believe that the race should be on the track, not in the bivouac. We discussed the situation among ourselves and both know they are free to make their own race. Whatever the result might be, I am convinced that both pilots maintain a 'fair play'."

Place: New Delhi, India