Pablo Quintanilla impressive on 2019 Atacama Rally opening stage

Chilean Rally ace, Pablo Quintanilla back with a bang on opening stage of 2019 Atacama Rally ahead of Sam Sunderland and Kevin Benavides.


Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Pablo Quintanilla got off to a great start at the 2019 Atacama Rally taking the first stage almost three minutes ahead of FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship leader, Sam Sunderland in second place.

Quintanilla has been off the radar since his foot injury during the last kilometres of the 2019 Dakar Rally but showed no signs of easing his way back into racing with an impressive opening stage of five in total. 

Following Monday’s short prologue, where Toby Price set the fastest time, the Atacama Rally took the riders out on a 270 kilometres stage for day one. Although not the most demanding one it featured some dune areas and hard packed sections where the riders were hitting high speeds which proved to be the feature of the day as riders got used to the conditions. 

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Quintanilla had a good starting position today as he was the 10th rider heading out. With numerous tracks ahead of him he used his navigation skill to chase down the riders and ultimately finished first.

“I’m really happy how the first stage has gone for me – it’s been a successful return to racing. Honestly, I felt really good for the whole stage and it was great to ride my bike again. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and now it’s real,” admitted Quintanilla 

“I don’t feel under too much pressure, the main thing is to enjoy the race and find my rhythm again after a long time off the bike. The bike feels good, but I’m a little surprised at the result today. Hopefully I can keep consistent and keep this kind of pace to the finish.” 

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Sam Sunderland also got to a great start of the rally and finished second nearly three minutes behind the Husqvarna rider, putting himself in a good position going into the second stage, one of the longest of the event. 

“Today was the beginning of the real race,” said Sunderland. “I’m pleased with my result. It always takes a little time to adapt to the different style of terrain here in Chile. The stages are so fast, it’s difficult to take your eyes off the piste to check your road book. It’s always a challenge to try and find your rhythm because you want to maintain your speed, but the route is littered with rocks and other dangers. 

“I felt good today – I did have a little issue with my GPS, which I was a little concerned about, but in the end I didn’t lose much time. It’s a long race, and always brings some surprises, so I’ll just take it day-by-day.”

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The current Atacama Rally champion, Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides, showed a consistent pace through the stage to clinch a third place ahead of his teammate, Ricky Brabec. “I felt good, very comfortable.” Said Benavides. “The stage was very picturesque and very varied with dunes, valleys, rapids, rivers ... a bit of everything really. 

“The starting position wasn’t the greatest, but soon we had Nacho (Honda teammate, Jose Cornejo) opening the track with me in behind him. His speed was good, so we arrived at the finish-line with great pace.”


Provisional top 10 results stage 1 – 2019 Atacama Rally:

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 2:24:24
  2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:25:14 +2:50
  3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 2:26:43 +4:19
  4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 2:27:41 +5:17
  5. Matthias Walkner (AUS), KTM, 2:29:09 +6:45
  6. Joan Barreda (ESP). Honda, 2:30:01 +7:37
  7. Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 2:30:19 +7:55
  8. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:30:20 +7:56
  9. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 2:31:35 +9:11
  10. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 2:34:57 +12:33

Provisional top 10 standings (after stage 1) – 2019 Atacama Rally:

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 2:33:16
  2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:36:14 +2:58
  3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 2:37:59 +4:43
  4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 2:38:25 +5:09
  5. Matthias Walkner (AUS), KTM, 2:40:17 +7:01
  6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:40:36 +7:20
  7. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 2:40:45 +7:29
  8. Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 2:41:59 +8:43
  9. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 2:42:03 +8:47 
  10. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 2:45:37 +12:21


The second stage of the Atacama Rally will take the riders out on a 310km loop rout, south of the town of Copiapo.

Photo Credit: Rally Zone
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Igor Aguado
Enduro21 Junior Editor