Cyril Despres rode into Lima, Peru on Sunday to seal his fourth career Dakar Rally title.

His factory KTM team-mate Marc Coma finished second overall in what was one of the most epic two-way battles in the Dakar rally's history.

Only minutes had separated the pair going into the penultimate stage, but in the heat of the battle on Friday, Coma made a huge jump and knew he had gearbox problems when he landed.

The Spaniard nursed the bike back to the bivouac, but made a navigational error in the process and this was enough to give his rival the lead he needed.

French-born Despres had previously enjoyed Dakar victory in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

"Today we won and it's simply fantastic," he said. "This is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I've ever raced in. It was difficult physically, but even more psychologically. Challenging yourself every morning and fighting on the course takes its toll on your mind.

"It's not like a 42-kilometer marathon; here, you have to earn your place every morning. All victories are beautiful, but this one is special because it came down to the wire and was decided at the last minute. This was an unimaginable scenario, with the leaders separated by mere seconds. I've done 90 or 85 rallies throughout my life, and this one was the one where I had to fight the hardest. Today will leave its mark on me."

A new Dakar rule in 2012 penalises riders 15 minutes for the first change of engines and 45 minutes for the second.

As KTM team had already changed both engines in the lead riders' bikes shortly after the halfway mark, meaning that when Coma's engine was changed for a second time due to the gearbox problem he was given another 45 minutes penalty.

For that reason, Despres officially won by 53mins 20sec.

"This battle between Cyril Despres and Marc Coma was one of the tightest and one of the most interesting in the history of the rally," said KTM's motorsports expert Heinz Kinigadner. "They were virtually wheel on wheel in almost every stage. They both gave everything both physically and mentally and they both deserve to go into the Dakar record books for this great effort.

"It is naturally unfortunate that Marc had some gearbox problems in the penultimate stage and picked up a 45-minute penalty for the engine change. Otherwise their times at the finish line would have been only minutes apart."

As well as the engine penalty, Coma - who won the rally in 2006, 2009 and 2011 - felt the modified route and re-classification of the eighth stage had cost him dear.

"I think the overall assessment is positive," he began. "We competed well and kept the winning options until the end, despite being behind a lot of the race. There is also the marshal's decision, difficult to understand, of giving back to Cyril the time he lost the day of the problems. But apart from that, I think we did a very good race".

The 2012 Dakar featured an almost 9,000 km ride from Mar del Plata in Argentina to Lima, Peru.

Along the way competitors encountered terrain ranging from the Argentinean pampas to the high Andes, the daunting Atacama Desert of Chile and finally the southern coastal plains and rios of Peru.

The event got off to a tragic start when local Argentinean rider Jorge Mart?nez Boero died following an accident on the very first stage.
Dakar 2012 - Overall Results after Stage 14:
1, Cyril Despres, France, KTM, 43 hours 28 minutes and 11 seconds
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM +53:20
3, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha +1:11:17
4, Jordi Viladoms, Spain, KTM +1:40:56
5, Stefan Svitko, Slovakia, KTM +1:47:28


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