Defending champion Cyril Despres stormed back into contention on the 2013 Dakar Rally as he won the ninth stage from Tucuman to Cordoba in Argentina. The 38-year-old KTM star took his first stage win in this year's rally on the longest stage of the route - an epic 852km, with 593km of timed special.
Depres started the day more than 24 minutes off the pace but came home 4 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Joan Barreda on a Husqvarna, with Italian Alessandro Botturi, also Husqvarna-mounted, third, just over a minute further back, and Despres' team mate Ruben Faria fourth, 7min47 off the pace.
Cyril Despres races through a creek on Stage 9. Credit: AP
Nevertheless, as the two Yamaha raiders who had dominated the motorcycle category thus far fell (literally) by the wayside, that moved Faria into the overall lead, with Despres second, 5min23 in arrears, putting the four-times former winner firmly into the mix for the win.
Depres said afterwards it had been about time he made an impression.
"I knew that it would be physically demanding, that I'd have to give it everything I had," he said.
"I've got blisters on my feet and my hands are sore, but I had to bang my fist on the table to say: 'Hey, I'm here!'.
"Ruben and I are racing well for the team, he's in good shape and that's the most important thing right now."
David Casteu - who led overnight going into the stage - hit a cow with his Yamaha during the timed section, dislocating his right shoulder. He got going again after medics put it back in but stopped again later in the stage, putting himself completely out of contention.
His Yamaha team mate Olivier Pain also had a day to forget as he came off several times, losing about 32 minutes and putting overall victory out of reach.
SOUTH AFRICAN CONTINGENT
Dakar rookie Riaan van Niekerk put in another strong run to finish 21st, 29min31 behind Depres, and hold on to his 14th position in the overall standings, while KTM team mate Darryl Curtis came home eight minutes later, 31st on the marathon stage, and moved up two places to 17th overall.
This year's biltong-flavoured surprise packet, Honda rider Brett Cummings from Witbank, finished the stage 48th, 56min29 off the leader, and made up another five places to end the day 60th in the overall standings.
Quad rider Sarel van Biljon (E-ATV) - winner of Stage 8 - does not appear on the results for Stage 9, or the overall standings after that stage, so we have to assume that he was unable to complete the stage and has been forced to withdraw - AFP
RESULTS - STAGE 9:
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM - 5hr 41min 36sec
2 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Husqvarna +4min 03sec
3 Alessandro Botturi (Italy) Husqvarna +5min14
4 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM +7min47
5 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +8min47
6 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +9min37
7 Paulo Goncalves (Portugal) Husqvarna +11min14
8 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) KTM +12min14
9 Gerard Farres Guell (Spain) Honda +14min12
10 Lopez Contardo (Chile) KTM +16min06.
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 9
1 Ruben Faria (Portugal0 KTM - 25hr 57min 12sec
2 Cyril Despres (France) KTM +5min 23sec
3 Lopez Contardo (Chile) KTM +9min03
4 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +16min56
5 Alessandro Botturi (Italy) Husqvarna +22min58
6 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +28min46
7 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +31min23
8 Stefan Svitko (Slovakia) KTM +32min50
9 Jakub Przygonski (Poland) KTM +33min13
10 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Honda +38min30