14th Stage: La Serena - Santiago
Link section: 122 km - Special: 346 km – Link section: 158 km – Total: 626km
Desprès and Faria finish ahead of Chaleco Lopez at the end of a Dakar not for the faint hearted
The Dakar is a long, tough race and Chaleco Lopez for one will not say otherwise. In the penultimate Stage, he broke his fourth gear and had to change engines overnight. The Chilean, who had really given it his best shot, clawing back over 14 minutes over Faria and pipping him to second place, now found himself with a 15’ penalty that put him back in third. He also had to look out for Ivan Jakes who set of just a few minutes behind…
The start was very close to the sea but it was drizzling and the clouds were so low that the helicopters were unable to take off, and the Special was delayed by 1h15'. Chaleco set off all guns blazing for the Selective Section, a mere 111 km, followed by a long neutralisation zone and a last Special just 15 km long. Chaleco won the special, having shaken off Jakes, and clinched the third step of the podium beside Després, who celebrated his fifth victory, and, in second, Ruben Faria. “I had to take a decision about the engine”, explains Chaleco. “I really think it was better to take third place than to run the risk of dropping out altogether. I am pretty happy as I am back up with the leaders. I would like to offer this third place in the Dakar to my nephew, who is ten years old and had just come out of years of chemotherapy.”
Nothing is straightforward in a Dakar, as Després admits at the finish. “If you want to win, you have to really go for it. If it was easy, it would be no fun. You go from freezing cold to scorching hot, you have to get up at the crack of dawn…It’s long, you have to get through the dunes in Peru, the rocks in Cordoba… And because it’s tough, a win tastes all the sweeter!” Five times a winner, what an achievement!
And on the second step of the podium, we find Després’ water carrier Ruben Faria, perhaps even more emotional than Després himself. Yesterday at the start of the Special, he was in second. Then Chaleco came roaring up behind like a bat out of hell to take his place. Today, after Chaleco had to change engines, he is second once more. “This morning, I set off determined to keep my place on the podium, and I really went all out. I crashed 10km from the finish but happily there was no damage done.” After all these years in Després’ shadow, the good natured rider from Portugal has finally reaped his due reward.
In quad, Marcos Patronnelli won yet again, finishing 1h50'35 ahead of Ignacio Casale and 3h40'10 ahead of Rafal Sonik. Laskawiec, who fought long and hard for a place on the podium, finally wound up in back in 13th...
But although the podium is the main goal for some, 125 motorcycles and 26 quads reached the finish to secure a well-earned medal! Tomorrow, they will all be well and truly fêted in front of la Moneda Palace in Santiago.