KTM rider Lopez enjoys home country victory as Dakar Rally reaches Chile

Francisco Lopez led in KTM factory riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres to celebrate victory in Stage Seven of the 2009 Dakar before his home country fans.

It was fitting that Lopez should win the special which he did 3.57 ahead of Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) the overal header at the halfway mark of the world's toughest rally.

Coma's arch rival Cyril Despres (Red Bull KTM) was third at 5'21 while the other two in the KTM factory rider stable, Jordi Viladoms and Alain Duclos were tenth (at 18'28) and twentieth (at 33'26) respectively. Overall Marc is still 'comfortably' in the lead 51'22 ahead of KTM rider American Jonah Street with Fretigne just behind at 52'31. Viladoms is now fifth (at 1h24'19) while Cyril again moves up one place to sixth (at 1h35'23).

Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) 2nd (at 3'57) 1st overall
The special was short but not so easy. The first part was fun to ride in the sand -- very bumpy and quite physical. Then it got really muddy with water everywhere -- not conditions particularly suited to rally bikes -- I think the organisers were right to cut the length. Now we have the rest day and a chance to prepare ourselves for the second week of the race, which I think will be completely different to what we have had so far. We will have the dunes in the north of Chile and I think it is going to be very hard. If you look at the time sheets it looks quite good for me, but I think they only tell half the story.

Cyril Despres (Red Bull KTM) 3rd (at 5'21) 6th overall (at 1h35'23)
I have to say I am not too unhappy with my day. As I started first this morning it was logical that Marc should catch me and I was sure that Lopez would go flat out to win the first stage into Chile -- something he richly deserves! What really makes me happy is that I have once again gained a place in the overall rankings. Looking above me I can see that Jordi (Viladoms) and Ullevalseter are within my sights and then I 'only' have Fretigne and Street till I get up behind Marc. Personally I would prefer to keep racing and forget about the rest day as I don't have any injuries and am feeling fit and motivated and hopeful that the second part of the race will bring a few pleasant surprises.

Jordi Viladoms (Repsol KTM) 10th (at 18'28) 5th overall (at 1h24'01)
I took a lot of care not to damage the rear tyre and never went over 145 kph -- and in spite of all that, the mousse started to melt about 10 kilometres from the end. I just made it to the finish line -- if it had been one kilometre further I think I would have had to stop before the end to put a tube in.

Alain Duclos (Kaestle KTM) 20th (at 33'26) 82nd overall (at 12h32'19)
The first part of the special was like riding Le Touquet and the second part was fast but as I couldn't go over 140 kph it wasn't much fun. The good news is that my back is starting to feel better and after the rest day I should be in better shape to help Cyril.

Having now reached the Chilean coast, riders will have a rest day on Saturday before launching their bids for the eventual podium places in the second half of the rally.

-credit: ktm