Chilean makes history at Dakar Rally

Valparaíso hosts finale of Dakar Rally as ‘El Perro’ makes history by becoming first Chilean to clinch title.

The Dakar Rally—an exciting high octane offroad challenge that pushes the world’s best motorcycle, quad, car and truck drivers to race through some of the most unique and challenging landscapes—roared into Valparaíso over the weekend.

Saturday witnessed the grand finale of the 14-day, 5,000-mile race as the 362 participants raced into the iconic port of Valparaíso, having first sprinted through Chile’s Antofagasta, Tarapacá, Atacama, Coquimbo regions.

This year was special though, as 26-year-old Ignacio Casale became the first Chilean to win a Dakar title after he crossed the checkered line first on his specially adapted quad bike.

“I won! I’m over the moon, I’m lost for words. It’s a flood of emotions,” Casale said. “The last [12 – 18 miles] were amazing: the crowds, people cheering me on, banners … It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Casale — who first entered the rally with his father in 2010 and is known as “El Perro” — told crowds about the significance of becoming the first Chilean to win a Dakar title.

“I didn’t even think of all this a few years ago. It’s a huge effort that has borne fruit. I’d like to thank the Chilean government for the wildcards they helped me get, as well as my family, my friends and all my sponsors,” he said. “Now it’s time to rest and go on holiday. I hope all of Chile will revel in this victory. It’s a triumph of hard work and passion, which proves you can go a long way if you do your best.”

Last year Santiago was chosen to host the finish line of the 2013 rally, welcoming racers in front of the presidential palace, La Moneda.

However, Valparaíso was chosen as the final location this year. The city provided the perfect backdrop for the end of the Dakar Rally. Located just under 70 miles northwest of Santiago and nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”,  Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site due to its unique architecture and improvised urban planning.