It’s come down to this.  There’s only one stage left in this year’s toughest rally raid event on the planet.  The pressure is on the overall leaders to hold on to their advantages, as scores of competitors hit their gas pedals in a last ditch effort for supremacy.  Chilean Bike rider, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López undid all the work that Frenchman Cyril Despres did in order to keep his teammate Portugal’s Ruben Faria in the second overall place, during Stage 12.  Lopez rode away with the stage win and has busted Faria down to third overall place.  Scores of fans have braved the rough terrain just to see their countryman, and Lopez intends to dazzle them.  Despres has just over eight minutes on him but knows that one slip up could cost him the top prize.

“Today was a very good day; tomorrow the next special will be technical in La Serena. But I think I always go to Santiago in a very happy mood. Imagine being capable of winning in my country, that’s motivation for the finish. All the people here, it’s great. If it’s not possible to get on top of the podium, I’m already very happy as it stands.” – Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López

American Robby Gordon was also in a mood to show the world what he’s made of, by taking his second stage win in the competition.  However, it wasn’t easy as his Speed Energy Racing’s Hummer battled all throughout the 380km special with France’s Guerlain Chicherit in his SMG Buggy.  The difference between them was only twenty-two seconds!  Gordon now holds the fourteenth overall spot, while Chicherit is eighth.  The Monster Energy X-Raid Team can boast of the first, third and fourth overall positions with French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, Russia’s Leonid Novistkiy and Spain’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma respectively.  However, Red Bull sponsored South African Giniel De Villiers continues to spoil their potential podium sweep, by his refusal to give up second place.

The battle of the KAMAZ Master Team’s trucks continued, as Andrey Karginov not only won the stage but finally booted his teammate, Ayrat Mardeev out of second place in the overall standings.  Eduard Nikolaev is still in front but had better watch out since all’s fair in love and Dakar.  Gerard De Rooy’s second place in the stage maintains his threatening position behind KAMAZ’S trio.  Czech driver Ales Loprais made his mark in third place and sits behind his compatriot, Martin Kolomy on the overall standings.  All of these racers know that it’s not over until they cross the finish line in Santiago on Saturday afternoon.  Even a commanding lead like Peterhansel’s 36:44:46 can be undone by a catastrophic mechanical failure, navigational miscalculation, driver error or the unthinkable.  Absolutely anything can happen in The Dakar Rally and usually does.

It’s not too late for you to witness the action at or Red Bull’s Dakar 2013 web page.  There are free official Dakar Rally 2013 apps for your iPhone and Android smart phones.  Highlights air every morning on The Dakar Rally at 2:00 am (EST) on the NBC Sports Network, and there’ll be a special airing on Sunday January 20, 2013 at 7:00 pm (EST).  Presumably, this is for the podium ceremony.  Yahoo Sports has up-to-date stage and overall results.  You can also follow along for official updates, photos and behind-the-scene views via your favourite social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.  Do you think experience will win-out over gritty determination tomorrow?  Let’s hear you!