Stage one of the Atacama Rally saw the field of riders head out into the Atacama Desert under clear blue skies. The 266.3km timed special looped around the area north of the Chilean mining town of Copiapó – the base for this year’s event.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has posted the third fastest time on stage one of the 2018 Atacama Rally – round three of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Following his winning performance on Monday’s short Prologue stage, Toby Price chose to set off as the 15th rider away on stage one. With the rally marking the first return to international competition for several months, Price decided to ride as smoothly as possible to reacquaint himself with both the bike and the tricky navigation the rally presents. A strong ride brought the 2016 Dakar Rally champion to the finish in third place.
“The rally has gone well so far, I decided to go for it on yesterday’s Prologue and posted the fastest time – that gave me first choice for today’s stage. I am happy with third for today, everything went smoothly. I concentrated on navigating well and not making any mistakes this early in the event. We knew there was going to be some tricky bits in there today and I probably lost some time by being careful and making sure I was on the right track, but I made it to the finish with no big issues. The bike is really good, my mechanic has done a great job preparing it for the terrain here in Chile. I’ll continue to ride like this, smooth and hopefully with the minimum of mistakes and see where we are at the finish.”
It was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Pablo Quintanilla that gained the provisional overall lead after finishing second on stage one. The Chilean rally star is now leading the overall by one-minute and 40-seconds going into Wednesday’s stage two.
Taking advantage of his good starting position Pablo was able to maintain a steady pace from the start to the finish of today’s timed special. Posting a total time of two-hours, 52-minutes and 23-seconds, Pablo was just four seconds behind eventual stage one winner Kevin Benavides.
“It’s been a good day and I’m really satisfied with my performance on stage one. This was the first full rally stage after my small injury and I felt even better than I expected. I was able to find a good race pace and maintain it until the end of the timed special. The way I rode today gives me some extra motivation for the remainder of this rally. I feel good on my bike at the moment and enjoy every moment of it. Tomorrow will probably be one of the hardest days of this rally. We’re heading towards a new area and the terrain and conditions are expected to be quite challenging. There’ll be some off-piste sections so it’s crucial to remain focused and avoid mistakes. I’ll do my best for another good result tomorrow.”
Monster Energy Honda Team’ Kevin Benavides ruled the roost on stage one however. Monday’s short afternoon prologue in Tierra Amarilla saw many of the top riders strategically do poorly, in order to avoid starting out from the front when the first stage of the competition got underway.
The delayed start benefited Benavides but due to that purposefully poor time in the short prologue he ranks second on the overall classification behind Quintanilla.
“It was a good stage, I came from behind, trying to take advantage of some of the tracks. I also had to navigate because I saw that there were people who had got lost and there were tracks everywhere. Good pace, good feelings, and a good level of concentration throughout the race. Physically I’m fine, too. I am happy with this first stage and I hope to continue in this vein. There’s still a long way to go.”
The stage two loop of the 2018 Atacama Rally will take riders south through Vallenar before returning to Copiapó, covering a total of 440.88km, 375.91 of which is timed special.
Atacama Rally 2018 Stage One Results
BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Honda 2:52’23
QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna +0’04
PRICE Toby 6 AUS KTM +6’15
WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT KTM +6’58
CAIMI Franco ARG Yamaha +10’07
VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamaha +12’33
DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 23 FRA Yamaha +12’43
GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Honda +14’04
BRABEC Ricky 11 USA Honda +15’36
CORNEJO José Ignacio 14 CHI Honda +16’54
SUNDERLAND Sam 5 GBR KTM +20’00
SHORT Andrew USA Husqvarna +20’35
MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports +23’54
PROHENS Felipe CHI KTM +28’37
RODRIGUES Joaquim 26 POR Hero Motorsports +37’42
Atacama Rally 2018 Standings after Stage One
QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna 2:53’55
BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +1’40
PRICE Toby 6 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +5’59
WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +9’08
CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +9’53
VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +12’22
DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 23 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +13’34
GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +14’51
BRABEC Ricky 11 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +15’43
CORNEJO José Ignacio 14 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 17’35
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.