After Team Repsol KTM's accident-filled fifth stage, Marc Coma was able to add minutes back on to his advantage in the two-wheeled category of the 2009 Dakar rally in Argentina.

Coma, who finished ninth on day five and lost 15mins 45secs to second-placed Jonah Street, enjoyed a trouble-free special, finishing in second position, just 2mins 9secs behind stage winner Cyril Despr?s. The result also allowed him to re-extend his overall advantage and, heading into Chile on leg seven, the Spaniard holds a 40mins lead over American Street and 47mins over third-placed Frenchman Davide Fretigne.

Thursday's special was shortened by the organisers owing to the bad state of some of the tracks, which had been left excessively muddy after heavy overnight downpours. Having decided to delay the start by one hour so that the participants could regroup after the problems caused by the sand dune on Wednesday, the sixth leg was eventually curtailed at CP2 close to La Junta at the foot of the Andes..

"Today's leg was shorter than normal as it rained a lot last night and part of the stage was flooded, so the final section of the special was cancelled, but coming into Mendoza was just crazy," Coma confirmed, "For the last 20 kilometres, there were thousands and thousands of people each side of the road. They were very friendly and knew who each rider was.

"The first 60km were dunes but, with the rain, the sand was hard and you could see the tracks easily, so that made the section much more straightforward - when they are wet they hold the weight of the bike better.

"After the dunes, it was just a short, fast piste to the end of the special, and I overtook some riders and made good progress because the leg did not have a lot of complications. The only thing you had to watch out for was the puddles, some of which were quite deep.

"Once again, my strategy was to stay out of trouble and preserve my lead - so from that point of view everything went fine. The important thing was to finish without problems and, after this stage, we still have the same philosophy: to take things day by day.

Despres took his first stage victory on this year's Dakar after finally having a trouble-free day. The KTM factory rider, winner of the event in 2007, started at eighth but showed some classic skills to be the quickest over the dunes.

"It was a good 'normal' day of rally-raid," he said later, "I didn't set out especially to win the stage, nor did I ride particularly hard but, being a short day, I could ride normally on the mousse without having to worry about it too much.

"We started off in the same dunes that we finished in yesterday - except that, after last night's storm, they were completely different, dark grey in colour with a black line where your wheel had been. I overtook Rodrigues, then Fr?tign? and Casteu and, by the time I came out of the dunes, there were just three tracks in front. Eventually there was just one and, seeing the amount of slide, how hard the rider in front of me was attacking, I was pretty sure it was Lopez. I guessed right, as I finished just behind him at the line."

The majority of the KTM factory riders were back where they are used to being, at the top of the leader board, with Despres' Red Bull machine heading Coma's Repsol edition, with the latter's team-mate, Jordi Viladoms, third to cement himself in fourth overall behind Fretigne.

Like Coma, Viladoms lost a big chunk of time on stage five - 26mins 30secs in all after helping Coma to repair a puncture - but finished just over five minutes behind Despres on day six, moving back into fourth position overall.

"After the rain, the dunes were a little like a big moto-x track and fun to ride and, all in all, it was a pretty easy day," he noted, "On the liaison, I melted my mousse and had to stop and fit a tube - which I did all by myself! Fortunately there weren't too many people around. If it had happened near the town I don't know what I would have done - I would have been impossible to do anything with so many people!"



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