Team HRC performs well in a gruelling desert stage

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Today turned out to be a rough day for everyone, not least for yesterday’s stage winner Paulo Gonçalves, who finished the third stage of the Atacama Rally with a respectable time.

Team HRC were presented with a tough task today in a 240 kilometre Dakar-style desert trek in Atacama. The roadbook featured some arduous navigation as riders went in search of more than 60 waypoints.

Paulo Gonçalves had to contend with a pack of adversaries in hot pursuit over the Copiapó dunes. The rivals were attacking from the more favourable position of having the Portuguese out front opening the track. Paulo got the first special off to a fine start, setting a storming pace until kilometre 30 where he began to concede. Nevertheless, a notable effort meant that damage was limited by the time the riders finally crossed the finish-line.

Fellow Team HRC rider, Chilean Jeremías ‘Jere’ Israel, on a dual mission of honing navigational skills and clocking up the maximum mileage before the next Dakar, was also clearly starting to feel more at ease astride the Honda CRF4509 RALLY.

The fourth date of the Atacama Rally will take the competitors to Huasco, with a total route of 378.44 kilometres including 273 against the clock.

Paul Goncalves: “Today was a really difficult stage. I opened the track with a really complicated stage in the dunes. At kilometre 30 I got over-confident and strayed away from a waypoint and to mark it I had to climb some really complicated dunes. When I found it and got back on to the right path I saw that some riders had already gone past, but there were tracks everywhere and I had difficulty following them. It was a really hard day for navigation. I think that I did pretty well even with a waypoint that didn’t seem to correspond, but I arrived having done it all. The bike worked well and we will keep pushing over the next couple of days.”

Jeremias Israel: “Today was a better day for me, above all, because I felt much more comfortable on the bike. I was more confident and able to keep up a higher pace throughout the race. I made a couple of navigational errors, but I think that it was a day where my confidence picked up and I’m pleased about that. I hope that it goes well for Paulo over the next couple of days and we finish the race well.”

Foto: HRC Honda