A fleet of trucks, cars, motorbikes, and quads thundered into Santiago on Saturday, having careened across 8000 km of mixed terrain from Lima, Peru, to the Chilean capital via a double Andean crossing to and from Argentina. As the dust settled on the final stage of the Dakar Rally 2013, racers Francisco “Chaleco” López and Ignacio Casale could both celebrate getting their country on the podium.
López finished third on motorbikes - the highest ever finish in the discipline by a Latin American, though for many it was an achievement for the biker to be competing at all after having suffered a serious crash little over a year ago.
“I must give thanks, because I could not have imagined this a year and a half ago after the accident,” López told Emol after the race. “This podium is for all those who have supported me, for all Chileans, and for my nephew, Lucas.”
Frustratingly, López, who finished 18 minutes behind race winner Cyril Despres, could have placed second or even competed for first if he had not hit complications and received a 15 minute penalty for a change of engine.
“I concluded that the podium was more important [than risking a breakdown for the win]. At the end I think it was a good decision,” López said.
On the quad bikes, Casale managed second place, behind race winner Marcos Patronelli of Argentina. This represents the highest finish for a Chilean on quads in the Dakar, as Casale, who finished fourth in 2011, continues to improve as a driver.
Further records were broken elsewhere in the competition. French driver Stéphane Peterhansel continued his dominance in the cars, winning his fifth event, breaking Ari Vatanan’s record of four wins in the car. Peterhansel has also won the Dakar Rally six times on a bike.
About the Dakar
Born in 1978 and originally run between Paris and Dakar, Senegal, few motor races inspire such a sense of adventure as the Dakar Rally.
“I remember when I was young getting so excited about the Dakar,” James Roberts, Associate Editor of F1 Magazine and motorsport expert, told This is Chile. “Fans are starved of motorsport after the end of the F1 season, then all of a sudden out of nowhere in January comes this mammoth endurance event. It’s off-road and so intense that technically it’s not even called a rally, but a rally-raid.”
The Dakar made its way to South America for the first time in 2009, after security threats in northern Africa led to the cancellation of 2008’s race. The South American edition has always gone through Chile, however 2013’s race ended in Santiago for the first time.