The Atacama Rally has reached its halfway point with the running of the third stage. After a 90-minute delay due to morning fog riders finally got away on a 335.17 kilometres looping Copiapó route, which took riders to Ojos del Salado during the 259 kilometre special. The terrain covered several kilometres of dunes plus faster track and dry river beds.
Pablo Quintanilla secured the stage victory and regained the lead in the event’s provisional overall standings. With two stages still be to run in the Chilean desert, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider enjoys a lead of four-minutes and 56-seconds over Honda’s Kevin Benavides.
Featuring a mixture of sandy terrain and fast dusty roads, stage three of this year’s Atacama Rally was challenging for all competitors. Making use of his vast experience in tricky stages, Pablo rode a faultless stage and was the only rider to post an overall time below the three-hour mark. More than three-minutes faster than his rivals, the Chilean rally star has taken control of the race with two more stages to go.
“It was a really good day for me. Every day that goes by I feel more and more confident to push hard on my bike. Today I had a really good start position and took advantage of it. I tried to remain focused on my navigation and it paid off. I am happy with this stage victory. We’re making great progress despite this being a physically demanding rally. Fortunately, the pain on my injured back is not so bad and I can ride the way I know how to. Everything has been going according to plan and I will try to keep this momentum going until the end of the event.”
Setting off second in the morning following his performance on the previous day’s stage, KTM’s Sam Sunderland immediately pushed hard to try and close the gap on Kevin Benavides ahead of him. Despite the tough terrain and challenging navigation, the Brit was able to maintain a strong pace and close down the gap to his competitors.
“I enjoyed the stage today, I was a little worried that running near the front would result in me losing some time but I was able to push pretty hard straight from the start. About 50km in there was a tricky spot to find and I spent a little time searching, but I think everyone had the same issue. I am starting to feel more comfortable on the bike and I’m getting used to the road book a little more. Tomorrow I’ll push again and try to climb even higher in the standings.”
Toby Price successfully defended his third place overall with another strong performance on stage three. Maintaining a solid pace throughout the technically difficult stage Price posted the fifth fastest time on stage three and hopes to cement his outright podium position over the remaining stages.
“I felt pretty good today, navigation was tricky and there was one waypoint in particular that was hard to find. I did lose a little time on that one but overall, I am pleased with my pace over the majority of the stage. The pace at the front is really fast and it’s tricky to make up any time but I’ll keep on riding consistently and hopefully have another good day tomorrow.”
Day two leader Kevin Benavides took third place in the special leaving the Argentinean in second overall spot on the race leader board, 4’56” behind Quintanilla, with two days still to run. Benavides again opened the track from the start to the finish of the special.
“I felt very good today. I opened the track from the beginning to the end, which is now over 550 kilometres opening the Atacama Rally. It has been a great experience and the sensations have been very positive. I pushed hard and tried to avoid getting time deducted in the general. Now I’ll have to try to make up some time in the general and stay focused over these next two stages.”
Friday sees the fourth stage of the 2018 Atacama Rally. After starting out in Copiapó, pilots will make a loop through Chañaral and Caldera before heading back to Copiapó. The total course will be 371.39 kilometres including 253.54 kilometres against the clock.
2018 Cross-Country Rallies
Atacama Rally 2018 – Stage Three Results
QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna 2:57’40
SUNDERLAND Sam 5 GBR KTM +3’46
BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Honda +6’49
GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Honda +7’47
PRICE Toby 11 AUS KTM +7’55
CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Honda +9’37
CAIMI Franco 8 ARG Yamaha +11’15
VAN BEVEREN Adrien 6 FRA Yamaha +12’33
BRABEC Ricky 15 USA Honda +13’08
WALKNER Matthias 3 KTM +16’08
DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 9 FRA Yamaha +16’35
SHORT Andrew 12 USA Husqvarna +18’35
MENA Oriol 14 SPA Hero Motorsports +18’51
DE GAVARDO Tomás 20 CHI KTM +30’12
GIEMZA Maciej 19 POL KTM +31’53
Atacama Rally 2018
Provisional standings after Stage 3
QUINTANILLA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team 9:32’12
BENAVIDES Monster Energy Honda Team+4’56
PRICE Toby Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +12’06
SUNDERLAND Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +21’45
WALKNER Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +21’57
CAIMI Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +22’02
GONCALVES Monster Energy Honda Team +25’00
BRABEC Monster Energy Honda Team +28’35
VAN BEVEREN Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally +34’26
DE SOULTRAIT Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally +40’52
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