Francisco Lopez has made a habit of winning at least one stage at home since the Dakar has been hosted by his country. Last year, “Chaleco” missed out on this prestigious stage due to a navigational mistake. This time, after a faultless performance all along the 423 km of the Day’s special, the Chilean fans’ favourite offered himself a royal descent down to the now famous finish at Iquique, with its 3 in 10 gradient and many spectators. Success seemed to be on the side of Lopez, because when it came to totting up, he appeared to have won the stage by one second from Frans Verhoeven.
The state of play in the general standings requires a fair bit of explanation after today’s stage. Firstly, one of the Top 10 left the race just at the moment when he was at its forefront. Olivier Pain, who had just put in the best provisional time after 218 km, crashed at the 231 km point. With a broken wrist, the Yamaha rider was airlifted by the medical helicopter from the race route. The accident had a knock-on effect on the positions gained in Iquique. In fact, Marc Coma, who finished 13 minutes behind Lopez due to a fall at the start of the special (after 80 km) stopped and gave up some time, like Gonçalves, to help Olivier Pain. Provisionally 2nd in the general standings, the Spaniard benefitted from a correction to his result, enabling him to retain his position as leader, 10’14” ahead of Despres. Bearing in mind that the title holder received a ten minute penalty due to a lack of attention to the starting procedures on stage 4, the differences gained on the track are minimal between the two favourites. Lopez lies in 3rd position, 18’32” behind Coma, whilst the day’s hero is in 4th position, trailing the race leader by 21’42”.
The name of Patronelli has reappeared at the top of the quad general standings. After the withdrawal of Marcos, the winner in 2010, his older brother Alejandro grabbed a stage victory that enabled him to regain the lead in the event. His countryman Thomas Maffei, 2nd today, trails him by 1’27”.