Pirelli places third at Dakar: first privateer finish
Pirelli continued its support of the Dakar race with the promising Portuguese rider, and selected an updated Scorpion Rally rear tire to race with featuring a dedicated tread and structure designed for the high-speeds and extreme off-road terrain of the Dakar. Race winner Marc Coma took the checkered flag quietly on his Factory KTM machine, and the final podium spot was decided in the last few kilometers. Hélder Rodrigues completed the 2011 Dakar Rally, held in Argentina and Chile in third position overall, a result he obtained from an impressive push over the last half of the race. Despite a 40 minutes difference from Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) on the penultimate stage, the Yamaha WR450F rider was confident in the possibility of a podium.
Pirelli rider Rodrigues was the race’s fastest privateer, having been supported primarily by his local country, and also recorded the best ever result ever for a Portuguese rider in the Dakar.
After finishing in third-place in the penultimate stage ahead of his great adversary in the fight for the remaining podium position, Hélder Rodrigues proved to be especially motivated for the final race to the finish, noting that “anything is possible.” It was. What seemed improbable happened, and Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez lost his third-place podium spot to the Rodrigues after experiencing mechanical problems on his Aprilia just 22 kilometers shy of the finish. On the finish line, Hélder Rodrigues, who had just made the second fastest time of the special stage, was just 5 seconds behind Verhoeven and began counting the minutes until Chaleco crossed the finish line at 13:23 - 29 minutes too late to save his third-place spot - now occupied by Hélder. After Aprilia’s podium finish in 2010, the consistency of Hélder and his Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires allowed Yamaha to take the spot right behind the two lead KTM bikes.
For Rodrigues, who finished 4th last year, it is a dream come true. The best-finishing Yamaha rider put a “knife between his teeth” in the race completed the 181 kilometers of the special, a total of 826 between Cordoba and Buenos Aires in 01h25m12s of the last stage second-place, and just five seconds behind the winner for the day - the Belgian Frans Verhoeven BMW. This impressive close to the 2011 edition of the Dakar is added to Hélder’s successes during the grueling two week race: a second in Stage 6 and third in Stage 12.
Marc Coma (KTM) was the big winner of this year's rally, with a race-winning time of 51h25m0s, thereby stealing the title to Cyril Despres (KTM) who finished second, just 15 minutes behind the Spanish rider and former Dakar winner for Pirelli from 2009.