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Despres Steps into the Lead with Yamaha

Five-time Dakar Rally Champion Cyril Despres has today taken the lead of the Rally dos Sertoes for the first time aboard his Yamaha YZ450F Rally. Following Monday’s stage four win by Despres, the new Yamaha Racing Dakar rider took a strategic approach to the two-leg marathon stages five and six run yesterday and today. For the first day the Frenchman concentrated on preserving tyre life as much as possible as no change was allowed last night for today’s challenge. As a result Despres completed yesterday’s 317km stage from Porangatu to Natividade in third position with teammate Mickael Metge following behind in fourth. Metge’s result was impressive considering the support rider had to recover form firstly getting his bike stuck on a fence and then a pack of wild horses, one of whom managed to kick the rider off-track as he passed.

The preservation of tyres yesterday proved a masterstroke for Despres today as the Rally tackled the 235km stage from Natividade to Palmas. He was able to use his YZ450F’s full potential to take the stage win just under a minute clear of Brazilian rider Jean Azevedo and move into the lead of the overall Rally by over five minutes. Metge had bigger tyre wear issues that Despres but still managed to finish in good time today to move up to fourth in the overall standings.
Mickael Metge

Cyril Despres
Cyril Despres
“Given that I lost a place overall yesterday it might have seemed strange, but I was really delighted with how everything went. As we were on a marathon stage we weren’t allowed to change our tyres last night so the priority was to preserve the tyres as much as possible while losing as little time as possible. And if you could see the condition of my rear Michelin compared with everybody else’s tyres you’d understand why was so happy. You couldn’t say it was like new but I had a lot more tread left than the others. 

Starting third on the road this morning I came up behind Marc Coma quite quickly on the special and it was obvious he was in difficulties with his rear mousse. Then not long after that I caught a ‘reluctant’ piste opener, Paulo Goncalves, and led him all the way to refueling. The closer I got to the end of the special the more I accelerated and over the last kilometres rode flat out to finally finish around 6 minutes ahead of Paulo. From the tyre tests we did with the Yamaha and Michelin a month or so before the start of this race I had a reasonably good idea how to approach this marathon stage and the result is everything I had hoped for - but it hasn’t been an easy couple of days. The whole time on the bike I was conscious of taking care of the rear tyre and mousse, while not losing too much time and constantly calculating the remaining distance and the situation of my rivals. The mental gymnastics were almost more tiring than riding the bike! This evening it is clear we are in a good position, but there is still a long way to go and myself and the whole team will be staying focused on the job still to do.”

Mickael Metge
“It was quite an eventful day yesterday. Before the refueling I managed to get my bike stuck in a wire fence and took a frustratingly long time to pull it out. Then after the refueling I came across three horses in the track. When I came up behind them they galloped off in front of me and judging by their speed they must have been in good condition! After following them for a couple of hundred metres I decided to try and overtake them and as I went past one of them kicked me in the thigh and pushed me off the piste! And until then I thought the most difficult thing to overtake here on the piste was my rivals! 

When we arrived at the end of the first leg of the marathon stage yesterday evening it was obvious that my rear tyre was a lot more worn than Cyril’s and this morning, before the start, I was frankly concerned regarding my chances of getting all the way to the finish without incident. Following Cyril’s advice I nursed my bike to the refuelling and then picked up the pace towards the end. It meant I lost a little time on the stage but overall it’s not looking too bad.”
Mickael Metge

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WARNING: Much of the action depict­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.

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