KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain displayed his consummate professional skills on Thursday, brushing aside the disappointment of a fuel line problem that dropped cost him around 18 minutes in Stage Three of the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina to take a solid victory in Stage Four
Coma and his KTM factory teammate Kurt Caselli, who also lost time on Wednesday when he stopped to assist him, finished 1-2 in the stage just 1.5 minutes apart. Chaleco Lopez, their Chilean teammate finished seventh in what was a very closely contested stage. The top five riders were all within five minutes of each other as they battled the track from Belin to Chilecito over a total distance of 586.73 km, 192.32 km of which was timed special.
The result puts Coma back in the reckoning for the overall victory. He is currently fifth but only trails overall leader Helder Rodrigues of Portugal by 3.17 minutes. Among his toughest rivals for the number one spot will be Caselli, currently third overall and just 1.39 behind the leader, and Lopez in fourth overall trailing by just 2.11 with two more stages to go.
Coma however is the first to admit that in rally sport nothing is certain until you cross the finish line. Friday’s stage, a massive 781.66 km from Chicelito to San Juan, including a timed special of 455.74, the second longest of the rally, will play a major part in the final outcome. On Saturday riders take a loop track from and to San Juan that includes the final timed special of 146.23 km.
KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said it had been a very good day for his riders. “They really pushed today,” he said.
Sadly Desafio Ruta 40 organizers also confirmed at the end of the day that rider No. 35, Nicholas Rojas of Argentina had crashed during the course of the stage and was declared dead at the site by the emergency medical rescue team. The KTM Factory Team extends sincere condolences to the rider’s family and friends for their sad loss.
The Desafio Ruta 40 is part of the Dakar Challenge series but also the fourth leg of the FIM World Cross Countries Championship. Coma, the reigning world champion has already won all three earlier legs.
Stage 4 results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 2 hours 56.25
2, Kurt Caselli, USA, KTM at 1.5
3, David Casteu at 3.36
4, Claudio. Rodriguez, Honda at 4.38
5, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Honda at 5.25
6, Pablo Rodriguez, 7.16
7, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, KTM at 9.44
8, Felipe Prohens, Chile at 9.55
9, Javier Pizzolito, Argentina, Honda at 12.50
10, Juan Salvatierra, Bolivia, Speedbrain at 14.48
Overall after Stage 4 (of six)
1, Helder Rodrigues, 14:07.52
2, Pizzolito at 1.16
3, Caselli, KTM at 1.39
4, López, KTM at 2.11
5, Coma, KTM at 3.17
6, Casteu at 4.33
7, Goncalves at 12.28
8, Prohens at 44.25
9, C. Rodrigues at 45.55
10, Salvatierra at 49.48