Aprilia rider wins first Dakar stage, another racer dies

This first stage is a big win for Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez.
This first stage is a big win for Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez.

At yesterday’s first stage of the 2012 Dakar rally, Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez bounced back from his serious injury in spring of 2011 to take a win, while another rider died.

Jorge Martinez Boero, a 38-year-old from Argentina, died from a heart attack while on the way to hospital following a crash near the end of yesterday’s stage. He was the race’s 21st fatality since it began in 1979.

For Lopez, the 762-kilometre win was a huge comeback. He’s gone through six surgeries since his crash last spring, and to pilot his Aprilia to first place only 14 seconds in front of defending champ Marc Coma’s KTM is a major accomplishment, even if it’s only the first stage of the 9,000 km South American desert endurance race.

Canadian Don Hatton, meanwhile, suffered some bad luck before the race even started. Hatton’s been running endurance races all over the world for years, but has never been able to finish Dakar. He was set to show up for this year’s race until he was sidelined by a farming accident last week.

Watch the video below for more highlights from yesterday’s stage.



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