Pablo Quintanilla had not raced for eight months since seriously injuring his ankle on the Dakar Rally. But, racing in his desert, the Chilean came back stronger than ever and crossed the finish line as the winner of the Atacama Rally on the final stage, with Sam Sunderland closing out the Cross-Country Rally Championship a round early with his runner up position.
Going into the final day with a narrow 54-second advantage, Quintanilla knew he would have to make the final 184.59-kilometre timed special count. As the fifth rider to enter the stage, the Chilean star immediately set about chasing down the riders ahead. After soon catching and passing Matthias Walkner, Pablo was free to navigate his way through the sand dunes of the Atacama Desert.
Maintaining good speed while making the minimum of mistakes on the short, but tricky, final stage, the former Cross-Country Rallies World Champion crossed the line with a close-to-two-minute advantage over the second-placed rider. His pace on the timed special was enough for him to increase the gap at the top of the standings to almost four minutes – an incredible achievement considering the event marks the local hero’s return to competition following the injury he sustained at the Dakar Rally earlier this year.
Pablo Quintanilla – P1 Overall
“I’m really, really happy. I never expected to win the race here in Chile. It’s been five very tough days but I’ve done it and feel over the moon right now. I couldn’t have hoped for a better come back – after eight difficult months off the bike I have come back and won my home race. I am so happy for the team – they have stood by me the whole time and I couldn’t have done this without them. Also, a big thank you to all the fans for the support they have given me over social media – it really does mean a lot. After such a tough time after Dakar, this victory feels very special.”
Sunderland 2019 Cross-Country Rally Champion
Sam Sunderland finished second in the race and also eased into an unassailable 39-point lead in the championship over Andrew Short. With only one event remaining in the series, the Briton cannot be caught and is the new FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion!
Sunderland had carried an unbeaten record into the 2019 championship leading into round three, following wins at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Silk Way Rally. Delivering a mature and calculated performance, the 2017 Dakar Rally Champion put in a superb ride throughout the challenging five-day event in and around Copiapó to finish second overall, earning himself enough points to claim the title.
Racing with incredible consistency, Sunderland finished inside the top three in all five stages of the Atacama Rally. On the final day the Brit did exactly what was needed of him, bringing his KTM 450 Rally home safely and in turn secured his first ever world championship title.
Sam Sunderland – P2 Overall, World Champ
“I’m so happy to win the world championship, I couldn’t have done it without my KTM team. I have to thank Toby as well for his help – I bent my disc on the marathon stage and Toby was kind enough to swap, so that kept me in the chase. It was always in the back of my mind that I could take the title here in Chile, but I tried not to think about it too much as the race went on, I just tried to focus on getting through each day safely and in a good position. It’s been a really tough event here in Chile as always but it feels great to be standing here now as world champion. I have come so close in the past having finished as runner-up twice in 2015 and 2016, but this title makes all the hard work worth it.”
Joan Barreda head out for the morning of Stage 5 hell bent on hunting down the two riders who had set off ahead in the starting order. The Spaniard’s intention was to make up time on the two riders and secure a final podium place. Monster Energy Honda Team’s rider from Castellón set a fine pace to eventually finish the stage second fastest and, in doing so, seal third spot on the final rostrum.
Joan Barreda – P3 Overall
“I am happy. Today was a day where I had to push and really give it everything. It was a stage with a lot of sand, but a fast one. It was necessary to match the speeds with the hazards. I kept a good, fast pace, and I am happy because in the end I finished in the third overall position in the race. It’s always nice to finish on the podium!”
The third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship calendar had also marked return of three major riders injured at the Dakar and who had been absent all season – Matthias Walkner, Toby Price and Pablo Quintanilla.
Price was making his first rally outing of 2019 since the Dakar Rally in January, and TP soon found his rhythm on the fast, rocky pistes of Chile and is now looking forward to another strong result at the final round in Morocco.
Toby Price – P4 Overall
“Stage five has gone well, it was only about 180 kilometres, so not too long. Sam caught me up and we led the entire stage from start to finish. It’s always tough to lead out especially through the sand dunes but I think we did a good job. Overall, I’m really happy, it’s been a good rally and a good one to come back to. I know I still need to do a little work on my wrist – it’s not quite right yet, but the plan is to be in slightly better shape for Morocco and then training in Spain before we gear up for the Dakar in Saudi Arabia next year.”
Kevin Benavides had likewise held an outside chance of finishing the Chilean rally on the podium. The winner of last year’s edition, who began further down the starting order, went all out to reduce the deficit with the riders ahead on the leader board, but did not succeed in making contact with the frontrunners. The Argentinean came home 5’42” behind Quintanilla.
Kevin Benavides – P5 Overall
“Today was a day to attack, but my day turned out to be a complicated one. I felt great, ready to fight to the fullest, but I had a problem and I couldn’t sort it out. It was difficult to try to get ahead in the dunes and more so when you have it clear in your head but the rest doesn’t respond. It’s a pity to finish fifth here, but we will continue fighting towards the next race.”
Ricky Brabec acquitted himself well on the stage, finishing the day in fifth and sixth in the overall final standings.
“Stage five was good. It was a fast track with a little bit of sand dunes. Today I tried to push and catch the guy in front of me. But the stage was so fast that I don’t think that anyone caught anyone else. I’m happy to have finished and now I’m looking forward to some testing. Then I hope we pick it up again in Morocco and then on to the Dakar.”
Also making his return to rally competition in Chile, Matthias Walkner showed great pace on the mixed terrain of the rally. The Austrian, feeling more comfortable as the event progressed, put in his best performance on the final stage to finish third fastest and claim seventh in the overall standings.
Matthias Walkner – P7 Overall
“It feels great to finish third on the last stage. I really enjoyed it today, I just rode my own race and tried to concentrate on my rhythm and navigation. Pablo caught me around kilometre-90 and I was able to follow him for the last half of the special. It’s been a really good race to come back to and I know now where I need to improve a little bit, so I’ll work on that before the next race in Morocco.”
Feeling more confident as the rally progressed, Andrew Short was able to find a good rhythm and increase his pace. Eighth on stage five, the American rider was satisfied with his overall result of eighth and now looks ahead to the final round in Morocco, where he hopes to close his 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with another strong finish.
Andrew Short – P8 Overall
“Today’s stage didn’t go too well for me. I made some mistakes in the first half and that ended up costing me a lot of time. The second half went better and I was able to enjoy it more. This race is so fast, and with the different types of terrain it can really test your focus the whole time. Overall, the race went well, I was hoping for a slightly better result, but I’m safe and looking forward to Morocco now.”
2019 Atacama Rally Stage 5 Result
QUINTANILLA, Pablo (CHL)
BARREDA, Joan (ESP)
WALKNER, Matthias (AUS)
SUNDERLAND, Sam (ENG)
BRABEC, Ricky (USA)
CORNEJO, Ignacio (CHL)
TOBY PRICE (AUS)
SHORT, Andrew (USA)
BENAVIDES, Kevin (ARG)
BENAVIDES, Luciano (ARG)
MARE, Aaron (SOU)
PROHENS, Felipe (CHL)
CABRERA, Patricio (CHL)
GUZMAN, Enrique (CHL)
DE GAVARDO, Tomas (CHL)
CARBONI, Giorgio (CHL)
ROJAS, David (CHL)
VELARDE, Gianna (PER)
NIETTO, Ismael (CHL)
NASER, Cristian (CHL)
2019 Atacama XC Rally Result
DE GAVARDO, Tomas
2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship Standings
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