Photo Credit: RallyZone
The Atacama Rally headed north in Chile with a lightning-paced Kevin Benavides taking the triumph in the second stage.
Claiming the stage win, the HRC Honda rider Benavides has closed the gap to overall rally leader Pablo Quintanilla to seven seconds.
However it was a dramatic day for the Atacama Rally as they left Copiapó.
An accident involving French rider Pela Renet, who had to be airlifted to safety by helicopter, saw for safety reasons the stage shortened to the neutralization zone, where the fastest competitor at that point had been Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides.
“I felt really good today. The idea today was to get a good position, maybe it was not the best thing to do to win, but I'm glad I got this victory,” told Benavides.
“There are three days ahead and we are going to challenge the mathematics of it and keep up a good rhythm until Iquique. It’s a pity for Pela, I wish him a speedy recovery and a return to the track as soon as possible."
FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship leader Sam Sunderland put in a great performance to finish as runner-up, just 17 seconds behind stage winner Kevin Benavides…
“Today was a pretty good day. I lost a little bit through navigation, but was happy with the first part of the stage. It’s always frustrating when they cancel part of a stage because we all want to race.
“I was in a good position to make up some time but unfortunately didn’t have the chance to maximise it. There are some long, heavy days coming up so I’ll look forward to them and do my best to get to the front.”
Photo Credit: Yamaha Racing
Going from strength to strength aboard his WR450F Rally machine, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider Franco Caimi secured an impressive third place result in a shortened stage two at the Atacama Rally 2017.
Showing more of what he is capable of, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rookie Caimi enjoyed a blisteringly fast pace on stage two of the rally…
“I'm happy with my progress so far. It feels good to get a top three result for the day. The more we race the more I am getting used to my bike and I can push even harder. We're now focusing on stage three. Tomorrow is going to be a long day and I'm more than ready for it.”
Continuing his strong run of form in this year’s Atacama Rally, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Pablo Quintanilla secured a fourth-place result on stage two to maintain his lead in the rally’s provisional overall standings.
Remaining fast aboard his FR 450 Rally machine, Quintanilla made light work of the extremely challenging navigation in the first part of the special stage.
“I had a good day. I think I did well and rode a good stage making virtually no mistakes. My feeling on the bike is great, and with the hardest part of the rally coming up, I hope to keep my place at the top. I am really sad for Pela, he was riding really well. It's always tough to know the stage has been stopped when a friend has a crash, but luckily he is fine.”
Photo Credit: Yamaha Racing
Racing a faultless stage two, Xavier de Soultrait solidified his position inside the top three in the rally's overall standings.
Fifth on stage two, the Frenchman is currently less than four minutes behind the rider in the provisional overall lead of the rally.
"Everything went pretty well today. I am happy with fifth for the day. I'm now third in the overall standings and that is really positive for the rest of this rally. I will keep doing my best for a good overall result.”
Paulo Gonçalves, who set off sixth after receiving a somewhat dubious penalisation, also finished the day in sixth place as well as occupying the same place in the general standings.
“I lost two minutes to the winner, but I'm still in there, not far off. I'll try to do it right and do the best I can each day and see if the penalty was really a roadbook error. Let's keep moving on."
Photo Credit: Barni C.
KTM’s Laia Sanz had a difficult day. Riding well through the special stage, Sanz came across the fallen Renet and stopped to help him. Obviously losing a lot of time whilst stopped, Sanz would eventually finish in 14th place.
“Today wasn’t a good day – it’s always difficult when you come across a friend that has been in a crash,” told Sanz. “I stayed with him until help arrived and then set off again.
“I think I was riding well up to that point, but after having to deal with something like that it’s difficult to concentrate on the rest of the stage and push. I was glad to reach the finish today after such a tough stage.”
The third stage will take the riders from Tal Tal to another coastal area: Mejillones. It will feature some 349 kilometres of timed special before arriving at the check point in La Negra.