Dakar - Motorbikes - Leg 7
Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez took the first stage win of his Dakar career on the event's seventh day, just as the race crossed the border from Argentina into his home country, Chile.
The 2007 450cc World Champion gave a new direction to his
motorbiking career last year by switching to a KTM 690 Rally, as the sport's greats have done.
"On this stage I found a quick rhythm right from the start, even in the dunes," Lopez reported. "The sector was physical and I think that tonight the drivers will feel it."
"On the rockier 120 kilometres, you had to go through at a good pace," he explained. "Afterwards the mud made for a very unstable drive."
Looking back at his maiden Dakar stage win and with the race moving into his Chilean homeland, Lopez made a heartfelt wish: "I would like for everything to go the same way!"
He holds a two-hour delay on rally leader Marc Coma in the general standings, but knows he will have opportunities to shine on his own territory. The Chilean star was welcomed in Valparaiso with cheers and is aiming to leap forward in the rankings over the next few days of competition.
Friday's shortened route, muddy in some places, favored those used to endurance rallying. Marc Coma's constant pace paid off as he came in second, keeping in contact with Thursday's stage winner Cyril Després who opened the roads today.
Coma holds an overall 51-minute advantage on Jonah Street, and according to all appearances, seems at ease. However, American biker Street dawdled slightly over the course of the stage and now has David Frétigné on his heels.
Yamaha driver Frétigné continues to impress, and on the route from Mendoza to Valparaiso, once again showed everyone what he is capable of as he seemed comfortable on this type of terrain.
The rest day awaits on Saturday. The competitors will now savour their time off before taking on the second and final week of the Dakar Rally as it returns to Buenos Aires via a different itinerary.