Chilean Francisco Lopez had a day to remember after winning his fourth stageof the race to move up to second in the overall standings. Lopez profited from a navigational error of former second place man Ruben Faria while showing the outright pace to beat Despres on the fast 441km timed special.
He said: “Tomorrow will be a great day because the race will arrive at the finish line in Santiago. Personally I will be trying to get the best result I possibly can. Even before we finish I can already look back on some great moments at this year’s Dakar. I’m very content with the way things have gone for me.
For Despres it was all about race management. Having started the stage in 14th place he had the advantage of having riders to chase and in the first half of the stage he rode hard battling for the lead with American Kurt Casseli and Lopez. In the second half he reeled himself in to finish the stage in second place losing 5m 25s to his closest rival Lopez.
Speaking to MCN, he said: The first part of the Special was complicated with some way points hard to reach. At times I wanted to follow the tracks and up the pace but today was not the day to do this so I had to navigate by myself. There were tracks in front of me but I did not trust them all.”
When asked if he could smell the overall victory, he said: “No, I have too much respect for this race to put my hand in the air and celebrate until we reach the last KM of the final stage.” It’s always special when you work for months to prepare for this race. When the day arrives of the last stage it is a big mix of excitement, but also to keep something in reserve so that I do not make a mistake. I will ride the last stage with the same high rhythm and hope that it goes well.”
Results Stage Thirteen Copiapo – La Serena: total distance 735 km, timed special 441 km
1, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, KTM 3 hours 44.54
2, Cyril Despres, France, KTM at 5.25
3, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 5.29
4, Joan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 7.42
5, Joan Barreda, Spain, Husqvarna at 8.24
Overall standings after Stage Thirteen
1, Despres, KTM 41 hours 37.18
2, Lopez, KTM at 8.15
3, Faria, KTM at 14.41
4, Jakes, KTM at 24.45
5, Pedrero, KTM 43.31