Francisco Lopez took the first stage win of his career on the 2009 Dakar Rally on Friday, and it couldn't have been better timed as the event crossed into Chile, his home country, for the very first time.

With the seventh stage shortened, just like the sixth on Thursday, riders faced around 243 competitive kilometres ahead of the rest day in Valparaiso. Lopez, who now lies tenth overall, completed the run between Mendoza and Valparaiso in 2 hours 36 minutes 9 seconds - 3 minutes 57 seconds up on his closest rival.

Overall rally leader Marc Coma meanwhile was 'best of the rest' and second fastest, meaning he remains comfortably out front.

Indeed Coma is 50-odd minutes up on fellow KTM man, Jonah Street, who struggled a bit on day seven and now has David Fretigne snapping at his heals.

Fretigne was fourth fastest on day seven, trailing Cyril Despres in third by over 3 minutes.

"I think the organisers were right to shorten this special stage because there were plenty of water holes and lots of mud," said Despres. "You have to know how to handle a big 200 kilo bike in the mud and it's not easy, but we did okay.

"We're discovering a new type of terrain, on leaving Argentina, and I wasn't expecting that. After 140 km of nice sandy tracks with jumps, we landed on mud flats, dry tracks that were a bit like the Sahara. With the mud, it was fun. I'm starting to get the bit between my teeth: when I'm not thinking about my problems and when I don't have any, straight away things are better.

"The cards were dealt during the first days and now we are coming across the sort of stages that we are used to, where we can attack, which is the rule of the game in rally-raids. The problem is that when the cards were dealt, I didn't get a good hand."

Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 - Positions on SS7:

1. Francisco Lopez KTM 2hrs 36m 09s
2. Marc Coma KTM +0hrs 03m 57s
3. Cyril Despres KTM +0hrs 05m 21s
4. David Fretigne Yamaha +0hrs 08m 58s
5. David Casteu KTM +0hrs 14m 07s
6. Frans Verhoeven KTM +0hrs 14m 42s

Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 - Positions after SS7:

1. Marc Coma KTM 26hrs 23m 47s
2. Jonah Street KTM +0hrs 51m 22s
3. Davide Fretigne Yamaha +0hrs 52m 31s
4. Pal anders Ullevalseter KTM +1hrs 24m 01s
5. Jordi Viladoms KTM +1hrs 24m 19s
6. Cyril Despres KTM +1hrs 35m 23s



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