Photo Credit: Bauer E. / Rallyzone
Putting in another solid performance, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla posted the fastest time in the timed special to claim a hard-fought stage three victory at the Atacama Rally 2017.
Further increasing his advantage at the top of the provisional overall standings, the FR 450 Rally mounted rider now enjoys a four-minute and 58 second lead with two stages to go.
Things couldn’t have gone any better for Pablo at this year’s Atacama Rally. Kicking off the event posting the fastest time in the short opening Prologue, he has now won two out of three stages so far contested in the Chilean countryside…
“I feel great at the moment, not just with my performance today but also with my bike and my pace in the race.
“I am so happy with how the race is going, but also with my team because they have been great and working really hard. I can’t thank them enough for all their hard work. I can’t wait for the coming two stages.”
Photo Credit: Rallyzone
Paulo Gonçalves, second, refuses to throw the towel in during a treacherous special stage
The halfway point of the Atacama Rally saw Monster Energy Honda Team’s Portuguese rider narrowly miss out on victory in a long, arduous and danger-filled special.
If yesterday it was Kevin Benavides who won the stage (eh, we’re pretty sure he did Honda!), on stage three Paulo Gonçalves took the turn to carry the torch, although it wasn’t a stage for taking excessive risks given the sheer speed of the track and the fact that some hazards were not too clearly marked in the roadbook.
At the end of the day, the Portuguese rider astride the Honda CRF450 RALLY settled for runner-up spot some 3’30” adrift of the winner…
“It was a fairly good but long stage of 350 kilometres with very difficult tracks, which we have already passed through once before in the 2015 Dakar. There were many dangers and I tried to go as fast as I could and I’m happy with the second place that I picked up.”
Photo Credit: Rallyzone
Paulo’s team-mate, Argentinean Kevin Benavides, opened the way throughout most of the special, with the added difficulty of having to read the roadbook at breakneck speed without references on the track.
Kevin finished third and tomorrow will be hoping to claw back any time dropped today…
“It went well. I had to open the stage and I knew the rivals would eat into my time a bit. I tried to go at a good speed and watch out for the dangers which when you open the track mean that you have to be far more attentive, which slows you down.”
Riding fast and with just a couple of errors, 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland put in a great performance to finish third. This result moves him up to third in the overall standings.
“I was having such a good stage today, I was riding my best and making up a lot of time,” told Sunderland. “Unfortunately, at kilometre 282 I realised I had missed a waypoint so I had to turn back. This of course ended up losing me some time. I had caught and passed the rider that set off in front of me, but it's always better to turn around and pick up the checkpoint rather than get a 20-minute penalty.
“After that I pushed on really hard again, only to clip a rock in a slower, bumpy part of the stage and derail my chain. It didn't take too long to fix, but was just a few more seconds lost. Other than that, I am so happy with how I'm riding and I'm really looking forward to the long stage tomorrow.”
Photo Credit: Barni C.
For Sunderland’s Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing team-mate, Matthias Walkner, stage three also went well.
The Austrian posted a good result with fifth on the special stage which in turn moves him up the standings to sixth overall…
“That was a better stage for me today. Physically it was very tiring - the stage was quick and yet so rough in places so that takes it out of you. I am suffering a little from having to take antibiotics, but it's not too bad.
“I really enjoyed the second half of the stage that followed the old Dakar loop, it's really fast. I know my pace is improving but I still have a little work to do to get back towards the front.”