Laurels go to Quintanilla and Casale

Friday 18 August
Fifth stage: Iquique – Iquique
Link section: 31.17 km – Special: 158.27 km – Link section: 20.66 km – Total: 210.10 km

The last day of the Atacama rally was flat out racing for the two protagonists in the bike class: Kevin Benavides (Honda), who opened the trail, and Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) who was determined to take back the top step on the podium! This fifth Special, over a 160 km loop around Iquique, was fast, strewn with dangers and hard to navigate, but the Chileans showed their mettle and then some.

In the bike class, Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) won the Atacama Rally, third round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, with a lead of 2’23 over his Argentinian rival Kevin Benavides (Honda). “I’ve won!”, whispered the friendly Chilean, his eyes shining, when he arrived at the bivouac in Iquique. “This victory in my home country after my injury in Qatar is really important for me. It’s an amazing feeling of satisfaction… Since the start of the race, I’ve felt great but itw as a tough rally with difficult navigation and lots of variations in the terrain. Today I didn’t get lots, or rather when I did make a mistake I was able to rectify it very quickly, unlike Kevin who set off on the wrong trail. He overtook me going flat out at km 120 and I couldn’t keep up. I saw him jumping over all the little dunes. He was really fast but I set off 3’ behind him… and I won!”

Now, with two rounds to go, I have a fair shot at the Championship!”   Honda rider Kevin Benavides finished with a smile, as befits a good loser. “I tried everything and gave my all, but I got lost”, he exclaims!

His team mate Paulo Gonçalves can be proud of his performance as, despite the 6’ of penalties, the Honda rider made it on to the third step of the podium: “Today there were dunes for this last stage. I set off at full speed to get on the podium and it worked!”

Sam Sunderland (KTM), leader of the World Championship, nearly crashed heavily at the start of the Special and decided to take his foot off the gas a little. He ended up fourth ahead of Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) who made a small navigation error in the rio and rode forty kilometres alongside his team mate Adrien Van Beveren. In sixth position is  Matthias Walkner (KTM) who got lost, followed by the Junior Ignacio Cornejo (KTM) who came in second for the Special.  “I rode flat out”, he said. “I made all the waypoints and didn’t get lost. I wanted to get a good place today and I managed it! I nearly won the stage. I missed out for just 12 little seconds… “

Laia Sanz (KTM), the only woman in the field, finished in 12th place.

In quads, Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) was happy to finish second today, just 6’ adrift of Ignacio Casale (Yamaha): “Ignacio is unbeatable on his home turf”, said the tired Polish rider. “But I am happy because since yesterday I have been enjoying the ride.”

The Chilean rider won “his” rally hands down: “Sometimes I was riding on two paws”, says Casale with a smile. “I kept up a very fast pace today and now I feel ready for the Dakar!”

Ignacio Casale won the rally with a lead of 47’ over his rival Kees Koolen (Yamaha) who had a heavy crash today 300 m after the start. “I did a pirouette in the first bend and hurt my neck and wrist and bit my tongue. But I made it to the end and I am very happy with my second place ahead of Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha) who had lots of problems yesterday.”

In ten days’ time, the riders will be tackling the Ruta 40 for the fourth round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship in Argentina.

Full results:

Provisional standings of Special 5, motorcycles
1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) in1h35’42
2. Ignacio Cornejo (KTM) at 0.12
3. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) at 0.19
4. Kevin Benavides (Honda) at 2’25
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) at 5’47

Overall provisional standings, motorcycles
1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) in 12h53’49
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) at 2’23
3. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) at 11’51
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) at 23’15
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) at 33’46

Provisional standings of Special 5, quads
1. Ignacio Casale (Yamaha) in 2h04’02
2. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) at 6’01
3. Giovanni Enrico (Yamaha) at 18’02

Overall provisional standings, quads
1. Ignacio Casale (Yamaha) ei 16h44’18
2. Kees Koolen (Yamaha) at 47’50
3. Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha) at 1h22’44

Judith Tomaselli