Early in the rally, French youngster Olivier Pain (Yamaha) was the star, leading the overall standings for four of the first seven stages. Veteran Dakar entrant David Casteu also held the lead after Stage 8, but hit a cow on the next stage, dislocating his shoulder and damaging his Yamaha, ending his chance of victory.
Despres lost fifth gear on his KTM at Stage 7. As the bivouac for this stage was unsupported, Despres had to rely on a fellow competitor to donate his engine so he could continue. That engine change meant the Frenchman carried a 15-minute time penalty into Stage 8 which opened the second week of competition.
Following Casteu's accident and navigational errors from Pain, Despres secured the lead on Stage 10 and held it largely unchallenged to the finish. Despres' KTM team mate, Ruben Faria, finished second overall, while a late challenge from Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez (KTM) came undone when the Chilean was forced to change an engine on the penultimate stage.
"In the end, I've got a good reason to be very happy," Despres said. "The day when winning the Dakar becomes easy, it won't be interesting any more. And it's even better when you win a difficult race."
Best placed Aussie in the Bike category was Rod Faggotter (Yamaha), who finished in a very impressive 14th place, followed by Ben Grabham (Honda) in 15th. Warren Strange (Honda) and Todd Smith (Honda) finished 24th and 34th respectively, followed by Simon Pavey (Husqvarna) in 59th and Matt Fish (Husqvarna) in 111th. Andrew Scott and Troy O'Connor failed to finish.
While Faggotter and Grabham starred in the Bike category, Victorian dairy farmer Paul Smith flew the Aussie flag in the Quad class, winning Stage 11 and finishing 7th overall, a superb result.
DAKAR 2013 - Top 10 Final Standings - Bike Category
1. Cyril DESPRES (FRA) KTM 43h 24m 22s
2. Ruben FARIA (PRT) KTM 43h 35m 05s
3. Francisco LOPEZ (CHL) KTM 43h 43m 10s
4. Ivan JAKES (SVK) KTM 43h 48m 16s
5. Joan PEDRERO (ESP) KTM 44h 19m 51s
6. Olivier PAIN (FRA) Yamaha 44h 30m 52s
7. Helder RODRIGUES (PRT) Honda 44h 35m 44s
8. Javier PIZZOLITO (ARG) Honda 44h 50m 26s
9. Frans VERHOEVEN (NLD) Yamaha 44h 50m 57s
10. Paolo GONCALVES (PRT) Husqvarna 44h 52m 42s
Full results and further details at www.dakar.com
Images: copyright A.S.O., courtesy of dakar.com