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Francisco Chaleco Lopez

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The start of the 2015 Dakar Rally is just about a week away now, and already we have news of a retirement: local favorite Francisco “Chaleco” López. The Chilean rider has been one of the top contenders at The Dakar, but he has clarified his intentions to switch from two-wheels to four, after his name was found missing from the 2015 entry list. As such, Chaleco plans on returning to the Dakar rally-raid come 2016, though he will be with the Rally Mobile car team, which he will race with the rest of this season as well. The move by Chaleco is not without precedent, as many top riders have gone on to continue their rally-raid careers behind a steering wheel.

After Joan Barreda’s Stage One win, Honda is continuing to make its presence felt in the 2014 Dakar Rally. This time Britain’s Sam Sunderland took the stage win honors (his first stage win in his career), though the HRC rider was followed closely in time by KTM’s Chaleco Lopez of Chile, who was just 39 seconds back.

Two minutes back from his teammate, Barreda continued his pace (despite hitting a cow), and was third fastest for the day.

Noticeably absent from the front of the pack were Dakar favorites Marc Coma (9th) and Cyril Despres (10th), as they battled the 359 km from San Luis to San Rafael. Coma attributed his result to a stone that got wedged between the gearbox and the shift — as a result he is now seven minutes back overall.

Meanwhile Despres’ difficulties stemmed from the Frenchman taking a crash in what was likely the fastest stage of the rally. Unhurt from his tumble, Despres will have to overcome a six minute eighteen second deficit overall.

After a last-minute appointment to replace the injured Marc Coma in KTM’s factory rally team for the 2013 Dakar Rally, American Kurt Caselli impressed many with his stellar rookie performance on the South American course. Taking two stage wins, Caselli will join Marc Coma and Ruben Faria on KTM’s factory-backed rally team, which will go by the “Red Bull KTM Factory Racing” name. With Chilean rider Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez also getting full-factory equipment, noticeably absent from KTM’s announcement is five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres, who is leaving the KTM squad “to move on and face new challenges.”

In an event that’s probably more embarrassing than nefarious, Aprilia’s Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez was caught by the camera of a Dakar Rally spectator stealing gas from a parked motorcycle near the race course. Lopez didn’t get too far in the process as several local policeman were nearby and gave the Chilean rider a stern talking to…of course when you speak the language, we imagine it’s a lot easier to talk your way out of a ticket than end up in some South American jail. Check the video after the jump, and let us know if you think Lopez should have been handed a time penalty for his actions.

Because KTM employs some of the best adventure racers in the world, there was little debate that the Austrian manufacturer would win its 10th consecutive Dakar Rally, on this the 33rd running of the race. However which of KTM’s top riders, Coma or Despres, would take the checkered flag this weekend at Buenos Aires was a question of some contention among adventure racing fans, as going into the latter stages of the event, it was either rider’s race to win.

That debate can finally come to a conclusion thought, as after racing over more than 3,000 miles on one of the most grueling Dakars to-date, Spaniard Marc Coma edged out Frenchman Cyril Despres for the overall rally win by a mere 15 minutes, which included a 10 minute penalty that Despres incurred earlier in the racing week. Photos, results, and more after the jump.