Pablo Quintanilla made short work of a demanding stage three at the 2018 Atacama Rally, to secure victory and regain the lead in the overall standings heading into the penultimate day four. 

 

 

With two stages still be to run in the Chilean desert, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Pablo Quintanilla had a decisive day three to move four minutes and 56 seconds ahead of Honda’s Argentinian rider, Kevin Benevides. 

Featuring a mixture of sandy terrain and fast dusty roads, stage three of this year’s Atacama Rally was challenging for all competitors. Making use of his experience in South American desert stages, Pablo rode a strong stage and was the only rider to post an overall time below the three-hour mark. Finishing more than three minutes faster than his rivals, Chilean Quintanilla has taken control of the race with two more stages to go. 

 

Pablo.Quintanilla Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Atacama Rally 2018 lhs Enduro21 560

 

Pablo Quintanilla: “It was a really good day for me. Every day that goes by I feel more and more confident to push hard on my bike. Today I had a really good start position and took advantage of it. I tried to remain focused on my navigation and it paid off. I am happy with this stage victory. We’re making great progress despite this being a physically demanding rally. Fortunately, the pain on my injured back is not so bad and I can ride the way I know how to. Everything has been going according to plan and I will try to keep this momentum going until the end of the event.”

Benevides backing up second spot

Monster Energy Honda’s Benevides has been consistent in the results all week results, earning third place in third day’s special which puts the Argentinean second overall, 4’56” behind the leader, with two days still to run. 

Kevin again opened the track from the start to the finish of the special: “I felt very good today. I opened the track from the beginning to the end, which is now over 550 kilometres opening the Atacama Rally. It has been a great experience and the sensations have been very positive. I pushed hard and tried to avoid getting time deducted in the general. Now I’ll have to try to make up some time in the general and stay focused over these next two stages.”

 

benavides Atacama 2018 Enduro21 560

 

KTMs fighting for third overall

After a poor first day, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Sam Sunderland was runner-up on a fast, technical stage three, elevating himself to fourth overall in the standings. Team-mate Toby Price completed the stage inside the top-five and continues in third overall with Dakar Champion, Matthias Walkner 10th and fifth overall.

Setting off second in the morning following his performance on the previous day’s stage, Sunderland pushed hard to close the gap on Benavides ahead of him on the road. Despite the tough terrain and challenging navigation, the Brit was able to maintain a strong pace and close down the gap to his competitors. 

Sam Sunderland: “I enjoyed the stage today, I was a little worried that running near the front would result in me losing some time but I was able to push pretty hard straight from the start. About 50km in there was a tricky spot to find and I spent a little time searching, but I think everyone had the same issue. I am starting to feel more comfortable on the bike and I’m getting used to the road book a little more. Tomorrow I’ll push again and try to climb even higher in the standings.”

 

Sam.Sunderland Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Atacama Rally2018 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Rally Zone
 

The Atacama Rally will head north for stage four of the rally to the city of Chañaral next to the Pacific Ocean, before heading back south. With a total distance of 371km, the penultimate day’s timed special is 253km long. 

 

Atacama Rally Stage Three Results:

 

 

Atacama Rally 2018 Overall Provisional Standings:

 

 

 

jon.pearson enduro21 april 2017

Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester
jon.pearson@enduro21.com