KTM factory rider and leader of the Rally dos Sertoes in Brazil for the first half of the 10 stages was deprived of final glory after a mix up with time cards on the penultimate stage, which resulted in him being penalized by five minutes.
The very experienced Frenchman, who has ridden in more than 35 rally raids and is recognized as one of the world`s elite in rally sport, had ridden his usual highly professional race across a large section of the massive landmass of Brazil. After the ninth stage he calculated that he had a good chance of catching local hero Jose Helio who held a slight advantage going into the final short run into Natal on the north eastern corner of the country. But the penultimate stage was shortened by 40 km due to an impassible water crossing and Despres, faced with confusion at what he thought was the end of the day`s special, mistakenly handed in his time card and continued on to the bivouac. Unable to then hand the card to the race director, he was penalized five minutes, making it an impossible task to overtake the Brazilian on the final stage.
Deeply disappointed – Despres, second in the final results and with other KTM factory riders David Casteu and Marc Coma in third and fourth place, was understandably distressed and disappointed at the outcome of what had been a challenging and interesting rally.
Set an impossible task
“Although I rode the last special as hard as I possibly could and made up the original time deficit, it was impossible to pull back the five minute penalty over such a short distance,” Despres said after the race. “I am sure you can imagine how I felt as I arrived at the finish podium in Natal. Up until the previous evening I had really enjoyed the race and the battle I had on the piste with the other riders. For me that is where a race should be decided.”
1. José Hélio, Brazil, Honda
2. Cyril Despres, France, KTM
3. David Casteu, France, KTM
4. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
5. Ruben Fana, Honda, Portugal