World Rally-Raid Championship

Francisco Lopez Contardo races bike again at Desafio del Desierto

2 Mins read
Credit: Jeremías Israel

Francisco López Contardo is one of the best in rally raid on both two and four wheels, but has been neglecting the former since the turn of the decade as he established himself in a side-by-side vehicle. This weekend, he gave the bike realm some love once more when he finished second in the Expert Pairs class at the Desafío del Desierto.

Expert Pairs was one of four categories at the race in which multiple riders raced together, either sharing a bike or riding together on their own vehicles. López jointly competed as #30 on a Honda CRF450 alongside former Honda rally raid factory rider Jeremías Israel, the latter on his separate bike.

One of six Expert Pairs teams, the two beat Vicente and Rodrigo Moreno for the class win by just one second, then increased the margin to two minutes on the second leg. However, Israel ran out of fuel 500 metres before the Stage #3 finish, costing them time as the Morenos edged out by four minutes. By the end, the Morenos’ 3:38:34.33 beat the López/Israel tandem’s 3:40:11.68.

“Chaleco” López began his career in motocross and enduro before running seven Dakar Rallies on a bike from 2007 to 2014, scoring eleven stage wins and a best finish of third in 2010 and 2013. After a five-year hiatus, he returned to the Dakar in 2019 in the SSV class and won on debut. Since then, he has enjoyed tremendous success on four wheels with two more Dakar victories in 2021 and 2022, the latter coming in the T3 category (now Challenger) for purpose-built racing SSVs. He also claimed the inaugural World Rally-Raid Championship in T3 in 2022 before scaling back his calendar since 2023 to focus on raising his newborn son.

The Dakar is his only W2RC race of 2024 to date, where he finished fifth in Challenger with a Stage #5 victory. He is not registered for points.

López was not the only W2RC competitor present as RallyGP regular Pablo Quintanilla, SSV driver Rebecca Busi, and Rally3 points leader John Medina made the trip from Argentina, where they were racing in the Desafío Ruta 40 two weeks prior. Quintanilla finished runner-up to Gabriel Balut in Super Expert by two minutes while Medina was second in Big Trail Moto behind Mauricio Achondo. Busi, the only non-Chilean entered, finished fourth in UTV Expert; she had lost fifteen minutes in Stage #2 when her intercooler pipe disconnected. RallyGP competitor José Ignacio Cornejo was also supposed to participate but storms in the mountains prevented his bike from making it on time.

The race comes on the heels of another rally bike ace-turned-car star who returned to his roots. Last week, six-time Dakar motorcycle winner and thrice car victor Stéphane Peterhansel rode a bike once again at the Swank Rally di Sardegna and finished third.

Class winners

ClassNumberCompetitorStage 1Stage 2Stage 3Total Time
ATV81Carlos Blaña1:35:48.091:24:09.821:48:45.284:48:43.19
Big Trail Moto300Mauricio Achondo1:47:05.942:47:52.821:45:34.916:20:33.67
Expert25Giovanni Enrico1:35:13.241:16:47.771:27:42.794:12:17.86
Expert Pairs32Vicente Moreno, Rodrigo Moreno1:11:05.191:07:56.971:19:32.173:38:34.33
Father and Son182Alvaro Bascuñan, Javier Bascuñan1:30:41.021:25:57.321:46:35.774:43:14.11
Intermediate113Gaspar Aliaga1:22:51.691:15:50.391:37:48.954:16:31.03
Intermediate Pairs151Cristobal Kunstmann, Andres Kunstmann1:22:18.231:15:46.391:49:53.904:27:58.52
Open168Domingo Esteyes, Cristobal Wohlwent1:27:29.681:22:20.461:52:13.764:42:03.90
Over 4241Cristian Bozzo1:20:59.041:17:18.611:35:26.724:13:44.37
Over 5269José Miguel Pakciarz1:22:28.011:16:13.601:36:54.344:15:35.95
Super Expert3Gabriel Balut1:05:47.611:02:59.901:15:33.773:24:21.28
UTV Expert202Jorge Resk1:07:17.691:07:19.971:19:53.333:34:30.99
UTV Intermediate222Felipe Paul2:12:56.711:34:39.231:58:15.465:45:51.40
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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