After four months rest the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship begins again this week with round three of the series hitting the Atacama Rally in Chile.
With riders and teams increasingly split apart for different rally events around the globe on programmes to prepare themselves for the big one, the Dakar Rally, the 2018 Atacama Rally promises to be one of the few times we see the team line-ups from KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha and Honda racing together during the year.
Quintanilla the rider to beat
Pablo Quintanilla will be keen to defend his Atacama crown and shine on home sand with Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing team-mate, American Andrew Short also in the reckoning after some serious desert training in recent months.
Photo Credit: Marcin Kin
Full factory line-up
The five-strong Monster Energy Honda Team will also be out in force with South American Kevin Benavides alongside experienced Paulo Gonçalves, Ignacio Cornejo, Ricky Brabec and Joan Barreda returning from injury.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Team includes three Dakar winners – Matthias Walkner, Sam Sunderland and Toby Price and will surely pose a threat as each aims to take a hold on the World Championship.
Yamalube Yamaha will also be present with French riders Adrien Van Beveren and Xavier de Soultrait, also coming back from injuries particularly Van Beveren who dramatically crashed out of the Dakar 2018 lead. They will be accompanied by the Argentinean rider Franco Caimi.
Finally, the Hero Motorsport Rally Team has entered two riders – Oriol Mena and Joachim Rodrigues will compete in Chile for the first time.
Photo Credit: Monster Energy Honda Rally Team
HRC’s Ignacio Cornejo plus Orlen Team’s Maciej Giemza and Adam Tomiczeck will be the ones to watch out for in the Junior category.
A total of 25 motorcycles and 10 quads, including Aleksandr Maksimov and Rafal Sonik will race.
The mining town of Copiapó will host the Rally HQ, while Tierra Amarilla, 16km from the city, hosts the service park.
Atacama 2018 stage details:
Tuesday, August 14 – SS1: 266.30km
Wednesday, August 15 – SS2: 375.60km
Thursday, August 16 – SS3: 259.27km
Friday, August 17 – SS4: 253.54km
Saturday, August 18 – SS5: 155.83km
Total – 1450.50km
The Atacama Desert race consists a multitude of technical tracks, sand dunes and demanding sections in the Atacama Desert which many of the riders will already be familiar with.
This year's event features a compact route with short liaisons between the start and finish points of the stages. Lack of rain in the region will make it a hot and dry one.
The rally program starts on Saturday, August 11 with the distribution of equipment and teams will pass the administration and technical checks at the Antay Hotel in Copiapó on August 12.
On Monday, August 13, at around 17.00hrs local time, riders will tackle a two-kilometre super special stage that will determine the starting order for the first proper stage the following day.
More information: atacamarally.com
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike email@example.com