Dominant performance from Pablo Quintanilla for the 2019 Atacama Rally while second place overall brings FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for Sam Sunderland.
Going into the fifth and final day with a narrow 54-second advantage, Pablo Quintanilla made the final 184.59-kilometre timed special count. As the fifth rider to enter the stage, the Chilean rider chased down the riders ahead and pushed on in the Atacama dunes to cross the line with a close-to-two-minute advantage over the second-placed rider, Joan Barreda.
Quintanilla’s pace on the timed special was enough for him to increase the gap at the top of the overall standings to almost four minutes – this on his return to competition following the injury he sustained at the Dakar Rally earlier this year.
“I’m really, really happy. I never expected to win the race here in Chile.” Explained Quintanilla at the finish. “It’s been five very tough days but I’ve done it and feel over the moon right now. I couldn’t have hoped for a better come back – after eight difficult months off the bike I have come back and won my home race.”
Second in the overall standings and making sure he brought home the championship rather than chasing the race win on day five, was Sam Sunderland. With an unbeaten record in the 2019 championship following wins at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Silk Way Rally, Sunderland put in a solid performance in Atacama to finish top three in all but the last stage to secure the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with one round remaining.
“I’m so happy to win the world championship, I couldn’t have done it without my KTM team.” Said Sunderland. “I have to thank Toby [Price] as well for his help – I bent my disc on the marathon stage and Toby was kind enough to swap, so that kept me in the chase.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I could take the title here in Chile, but I tried not to think about it too much as the race went on, I just tried to focus on getting through each day safely and in a good position. It’s been a really tough event here in Chile as always but it feels great to be standing here now as world champion. I have come so close in the past having finished as runner-up twice in 2015 and 2016, but this title makes all the hard work worth it.”
Third overall in the rally after setting second fastest time on the final stage to move up the standings was Joan Barreda: “Today was a day where I had to push and really give it everything. It was a stage with a lot of sand, but a fast one. It was necessary to match the speeds with the hazards. I kept a good, fast pace, and I am happy because in the end I finished in the third overall position in the race. It's always nice to finish on the podium!”
2019 Atacama Rally – Overall Classification:
- Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 15:15:59
- Sam Sunderland (KTM) 15:19:55
- Joan Barreda (Honda) 15:24:20
- Toby Price (KTM) 15:27:23
- Kevin Benavides (Honda) 15:31:40
- Ricky Brabec (Honda) 15:37:20
- Matthais Walkner (KTM) 15:43:10
- Andrew Short (Husqvarna) 15:43:53
- Jose Cornejo (Honda) 15:49:16
- Luciano Benavides (KTM) 15:54:51