Francisco Lopez claimed a memorable stage victory onboard his Team Copec Movistar KTM on day seven of the 2009 Dakar Rally.
The Chilean rider received an incredible reception from the thousands of spectators as the event left Argentina and arrived in Chili for the first time in its 31 year history.
Lopez took the shortened stage win after heavy rain by just 3m 57s and moved up to tenth in the overall standings.
He said: “It’s incredible to win the stage and I am very happy. The people of Chile are delighted what I am doing and delighted to see the Dakar for the first time.
"We’re battling for the top positions and it’s fantastic that there are so many people out here to support me.”
Second place went to race leader Marc Coma. Coma continued his near perfect performance during this years event and subsequently extended his overall lead to 51m 22s from American Jonah Street who could only manage eighth position.
Coma said: “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.”
Red Bull KTM man Cyril Despres continued his good fortune and form to take third onstage, a result that sees him move up the leader board to sixth, but still no nearer to the race leader, Coma.
He said: “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 Frétigné 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.”
Honda Europe rider Mick Extance was once again top Brit with his CRF450 clearly working well on the technical terrain. The 45 year old ended the stage 32nd but has significantly moved up to 22nd overall and closer to his target of a top 20 finish.
Stanley Watt now holds 25th overall after a tough day that saw the former British Superstock racer finish in 47th place.
Simon Pavey took his BMW G 650 Xchallenge to 58th onstage and now holds 49th place overall.
Craig Bounds (KTM Desert Rose Racing) took his best finish of the Dakar ending day seven in 552nd place moving the 36 year old Welshman up to 76th overall.
Phillip Noone (Team Dolphin Racing KTM) finished 95th with Gary Ennis (KTM Team Dakar Ireland) 113th and Ewan Bucham (KTM Desert Rose Racing) 129th.
Day eight is the rest day of the 2009 Dakar allowing riders to recover from the opening seven days of the event and prepare for the second week of the race.