The FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship resumed last week with the Chilean round of the series, the Atacama Rally - a race in daisies - that took place around the mining town of Copiapó.
The nerve centre of the race, the famous PCO, was installed in the Antay hotel, while the bivouac was warmly welcomed in the Tierra Amarilla municipality, 16km from Copiapó, that was hit by the mudslides three years ago.
The week began with the country’s idol, reigning World Champion Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), quickly taking the race lead. He held the initiative until he made a navigational mistake in the fourth stage. “I made a mistake,” he explained at the finish. “And I left the track too early. I rode 7km off-piste before I realised that I was wrong and I turn back… It cost me a lot.”
The Chilean rode swiftly before the refuelling and ran at an average of 100km/h in the dunes of Copiapó. Ultimately, Quintanilla finished third and reached the chequered flag with a smile. “I sweated today,” he explained with a laugh. “I gave everything to return to Benavides! I’m really happy with this special and the race. I had hurt myself badly some time ago. It’s never easy to regain confidence and ride fast. I thought it would take me longer…so I’m very happy!”
The opportunity that arose was too good for Argentine rider Kevin Benavides (Honda), who took full advantage to seize the laurels on the land of his opponent.“I’m so happy,” he said. “Since the beginning of the race, we attacked like crazy and I win! It’s been several years that I come to ride in Chile but here, Pablo Quintanilla is very strong at home. So I am really happy to have won.”
Toby Price (KTM) finished second, Matthias Walkner (KTM) was fourth after winning the fourth stage, followed by Franco Caimi (Yamaha), who missed out on the final stage but had a great race. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) was caught out on the penultimate stage and lost a lot of time to finish sixth.
Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) won the Junior category in seventh and Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) was happy with his ‘recovery’ on the bike and was eighth. “It’s only been a month since I got back on a motorcycle after six months of rest,” explained the Frenchman. “It must come back… and here in Chile, it’s a particular rally, very fast, I like it, but it was difficult to fight for the win because I do not know the tracks well.”
His team-mate Xavier de Soultrait had arrived with strong ambitions but had a nasty fall on the first day. “I was ‘anaesthetised’ for the week,”he confided. He lost a lot of time on the second day with a mechanical problem and explained that ‘it was a race to recovery.”
The KTM team lost Sam Sunderland in the fourth special after the Dubai-based Briton broke a metatarsal on a stone… and Honda team lost Joan Barreda the first day when he had a bad crash and broke his nose and again his wrist.
The FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship remains wide open after three rounds. Kevin Benavides and Pablo Quintanilla both have 50 points, while the young Pole Maciej Giemza has 42.
Alexsandr Maksimov suffered a crushing fall and retired on the second day in the quad category. The Argentine rider Nicolás Cavigliasso (Yamaha) then took the victory from his compatriot Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (Yamaha) by a slender advantage of 1min 36sec after 18 hours of racing. Rafak Sonik (Yamaha), who also returned for the first time since his injuries at the Dakar, finished third.
Overall Results Bike FIM
1.Kevin Benavides (Honda) en 14 h 19’ 392
2.Toby Price (KTM) à 4’25
3.Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) à 6’27
4.Matthias Walkner (KTM) à 10’21
5.Franco Caimi (Yamaha) à 22’47
6.Paulo Goncalves (Honda) à 23’32
7.Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) à 39’07
8.Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) à 41’39
9.Ricky Brabec (Honda) à 1h01’32
10.Andrew Short (Husqvarna) à 1h03’49
Overall Results Quads FIM.
1.Nicolás Cavigliasso (Yamaha) en 18h15’ 01
2.Jeremías González (Yamaha) à 1’36
3.Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) à 1h59’59
4.Italo Pedemonte (Yamaha) à 31h21’50”
5.Alexander Kotesky (Yamaha) à 55h24’29”