Cyril Despres is fast becoming fond of South America but also fond of winning there too.
After clinching his fourth Dakar Rally victory in January, the KTM rider returned to Argentina for inaugural running of the Desafio Litoral Rally. With 2012 marking the first edition of the six-day event, he arrived there with only one thing on his mind – success. And with a very real chance of victory on the table, he was determined to etch his name a little deeper into the record books.
Playing a slightly tactical start to the race, Despres ended the opening stage of the rally in a surprising second position. As the first rider to start the rally, the Frenchman found himself with little or no tracks to follow on slippery and unfamiliar virgin terrain. Knowing the opportunity to chase down the leader’s wheel tracks on stage two would see him work his way to the front of the field, Despres didn’t worry.
Getting down to business on day two, he promptly won the stage and in turn opened up a healthy lead. With stage three becoming unexpectedly cancelled due to inclement weather and grounding fog, Despres passed the halfway point in the race with a four-minute buffer over his rivals. Winning again on stage four stretched his advantage to almost six minutes and with just two days left to run, victory seemed a given.
However, it was while 40km from the end of the penultimate stage of the rally that the only signs of drama unfolded as the rear tyre on his KTM broke down. Struggling to maintain pace his lead began to slip away until the generous offer of a replacement wheel from his stand-in teammate Taddy Blazusiak kept him in the hunt.
Loosing only two minutes during the upheaval Despres still remained out of touch from the chasing pack and by going on to secure the sixth and final stage win of the race he gladly claimed the prize he travelled over seven thousand miles to get.