Coma has won two of the four stages so far, but a navigation error during stage three set put him 10 minutes behind his rival. Coma was able to claw two minutes back from Despres today and he'll have to do the same throughout the Dakar if he wants to claim back-to-back titles.
"It was a very tough special, in particular at the beginning with the fast start. Then, we had to focus on the navigation and tackle water, a lot of it, in the ríos," Coma said. "I tried to drive at a very high pace from the beginning, but it was difficult. I was able to overtake a few pilots and gain some time on Cyril. Fiambala and many other stages still lie ahead. That is the way things are right now. And I keep on fighting every day."
If anyone is going to catch Despres, it will be Coma. Despres' closest competitor behind Coma is Helder Rodrigues, who is currently 26 minutes off the pace.
"It was difficult because the rainfall in the region these last few days furrowed the tracks and exposed big rocks," Despres said. "Moreover, with this the heat it is physically demanding to maintain a high pace in these conditions... So I am quite happy with my performance today. At the beginning I saw Marc surge ahead and I knew he would claw some time back, but I focused on the navigation to avoid making any mistakes, slowing down a bit before every note. Since we had almost 400 notes today, I will be quite happy if I only lose two minutes."
Here's a video summary of the fourth stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally.