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Chaleco López

When you think Dakar, you often think of Francisco “Chaleco” López. This Dakar legend has entered the rally nine times in multiple categories, and he’s currently preparing for his tenth Dakar run (and fifth in the UTV category). Coming off the excitement of winning the Championship at the World Rally-Raid, all eyes are on Dakar for Francisco[G1] . We caught up with him at his home in Chile.

Can-Am: It has been an exciting 12 months for you; what have you been up to since the 2022 Dakar Rally?

 

Francisco: It has been a hard and challenging year of off-road racing. I competed in the 2022 World Championships, which started in Abu Dhabi, then headed to Morocco and finally Andalusia, where I was awarded the Championship. But it hasn’t just been about racing this year; I’m always up to something at home in Santiago, whether it’s cycling, motorbiking or functional training, I’m always doing something! 

 


 

You’re coming back to Dakar as the defending champion in the T3, and you’ve won this category four times; what feeds your passion to race in Dakar?

Francisco: This category is more competitive than ever, so I’m always working on new strategies and new ways of thinking, especially with so many years of experience. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to win in both the T3 and T4 categories, but the learning never stops. Evolving in this sport is good for me and makes me stronger. I’ve learned that the strongest and best drivers will be the ones who make the least number of mistakes, not necessarily who are the fastest ones out there. Those who are more strategic in their race will usually be the ones who come out on top!

 

What have you learned since the last Dakar, and what are you going to do differently or the same going into the 2023 Rally

Francisco: The 2023 Dakar Rally will be completely different from any other year I’ve competed in. It’s going to be a lot more technical with a lot of dunes, which is going to be a great opportunity for me and the strategy I have in place.

 

So, Dakar is just around the corner. Tell us how you are preparing for the race.

Francisco: Preparation for the Dakar Rally starts very early. Working closely with my co-driver and my mechanical team is an important part of the preparation, and we don’t waste time. It’s such a competitive race, and every little detail counts. You have to make adjustments and fine-tune every detail and every aspect to be competitive. We have such a passion and love for this, and we are looking forward to putting the planning to work.

 

Outside of racing, I love being with my family and friends. Also, I love to ride my motorbikes.

                                                                                                Chaleco Lopez

 

When we think of Dakar, and the UTV category, your name is the one most people think of. What is the legacy you’re looking to build with racing and at Dakar?

Francisco: I’m looking to inspiring the next generation of athletes as much as possible. I want to build this legacy in and out of competition.

 

What’s one thing people don’t know about the Dakar Rally experience that you think would really surprise them?

Francisco: People say it’s a really hard race, and it’s known to be the toughest in the world, but most people don’t know that at the end of the rally, we’ve raced 9,000 km (5,500 miles). It’s a lot of time in the seat and being competitive; you really have to be prepared, not just physically, but mentally too.  

While you’re racing, are you listening to music? If so, what are your favorite songs?

Francisco: Well, I have a personal playlist that I play every day and every night. I do love rock; it’s one of my passions and helps keep me motivated.

 

Thanks so much for spending some time with us today, Francisco. Good luck at this year’s Dakar Rally! 

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