News 10 Jan 2011

Lopez takes Dakar Stage Seven victory as Aussies improve

In a shortened 273km special stage, Chilean rider Francisco Lopez managed to achieve best time for the first time this year, which brings him slightly closer to Marc Coma and Cyril Despres in the overall classification.

It is the third consecutive stage that escapes the two KTM riders, with Aprilia rider Lopez gaining strength as the rally continues.

Since the Dakar has been taking place on home turf, ‘Chaleco’ never waited for too long to thrill his supporters. But this year, victory had so far been eluding the Aprilia leader who nearly won the stage in Iquique finishing right behind Gonçalves.

This year, Lopez had been feeling so great, easy like never before, for instance with navigation which is normally not his forte.

His Italian 450cc having now demonstrated its reliability, both in terms of performance and sturdiness, all the conditions were there to see Lopez roar out of the box.

So it is in Antofagasta, one of the cities where he already won honorary citizenship in the past that the man achieved his fifth victory in a Dakar.

Upon arrival, he finished with a 2:21 margin, a glorious day of fame and a small jump closer to the top of the standings where he is still third around 18:27 behind the Catalan rider.

The 273km on the menu of the day did not really change things between both KTM riders, although the day made them both realize the ‘Chaleco’ threat is a pretty serious one.

Coma remains in the lead 7:24 ahead of Despres who closed the gap a bit today. Both men know that such a short lead can be destroyed any day by a mechanical problem or by a dodgy navigation decision.

A bit further down the ranks, the good news finally came from Pal-Anders Ullevalseter who ended with the eighth fastest time of the day and is back in the top 10.

As for Jonah Street, he is on the way out of the leadership, falling more than an hour behind Coma at CP3 after having had to stop for an engine failure.

David Casteu is already pretty far down the ranks, but trouble seems to be the daily bread of the Sherco rider, who also had to spend a long time repairing off trail.

Aussie Jacob Smith finished the stage 43rd and now sits a solid 29th overall, while Simon Pavey was a solid 48th to now rank 64th.

2011 Dakar Rally
Stage Seven Results

1. Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
3. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM
43. Jacob Smith, Australia, Honda
48. Simon Pavey, Australia, BMW

Standings after Stage Seven
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
3. Francisco (Chaleco) Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM
29. Jacob Smith, Australia, Honda
64. Simon Pavey, Australia, BMW