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Chaleco Lopez – Aprilia’s Dakar Hope
2012 Dakar Rally – Aprilia
“The Vest of the Rest”
Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez came up 22 kilometres short of repeating his third place finish in 2010. At km 159 of the final stage, a broken shock absorber put a damper on the remarkable rally of the Chilean rider and his 43-minute lead over Helder Rodrigues evaporated. Francisco Lopez finished at the foot of the podium after having led the pack behind Coma and Despres. He finished second on stages four and five and won stage seven. The incredible scenario at the finish at the Baradero circuit had the Aprilia rider barely making it in 89th place, was a precursor of things to come during 2011. At the Tunisia Rally in May, which he had won in 2010, Chaleco crashed on stage three, suffering 11 fractures. Six operations were needed to get South America’s top rider back on his feet. Chaleco is that much more motivated, but he is also aware of the risks associated with rally-raid. His goals for his 5th Dakar are to recapture his competitiveness and finish on the Dakar podium.
Name: Francisco “Chaleco” López Date of Birth: September 15, 1974 Nationality: Chilean Machine: Aprilia RXV 450 Tuareg Debut: 2007 Lisbon (Portugal) to Dakar (Senegal). Did not finish Best Dakar: 2010 3rd place 2012 Dakar Number: #4
Francisco has not only kept up the great family tradition of biking started by his father but he has also been given Renato’s old nickname. Chaleco is Spanish for Vest and throughout his career Francisco has proved to be the Best of the Vest!
From his early days competing in 85cc races to his international titles at famous raids such as the Tunisian Rally you can always find Chaleco at the top of the leaderboard. Few people celebrated the Dakar’s arrival in South America as much as Chaleco as it meant he would get the chance to ride his favourite race in front of his home fans.
Chaleco did not let down the Chilean fans in 2009 when he won the first ever Dakar stage held in South America and the following year he finished up with a podium finish. There was heartbreak on the final stage of the 2011 Dakar when mechanical failure denied Chaleco a second consecutive year on podium.
In May 2011 Chaleco suffered a cruel accident during the Tunisian Rally but he has battled back from his injuries to take part in this year’s Dakar. Expect race fans to cheer him all the way from Mar del Plata to Lima, via his native Chile.
Fast Fact: After spending four gruelling months recovering from his crash in Tunisia it was only one week between Chaleco’s last hospital appointment and the start of the Pharaons Rally in Egypt. Chaleco surprised everyone by turning up at the start line in Egypt and completing the six-stage race.
Percentage points: “I have been riding motorbikes since I was a five-year-old kid, bikes are such a big part of my life and I always knew deep down that I had to ride again. Right now I think I’m 85% fully recovered so I know I must have a sensible approach to this Dakar. If I push too hard there’s a chance I could retire in the early stages. My aim is to go nice and steady, enjoy the race as much as I can and arrive in Lima at the finish line. After the year I had I feel just getting to the start line is a massive victory.”