Atacama Rally Stage 2: tough day for Team HRC

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Team HRC’s trio of riders Paulo Gonçalves, Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec continue to rub shoulders the leaders in the Atacama Rally in spite of suffering the severity of the rally’s longest stage.

It was a long and tough stage today at the Atacama Rally around the spectacular ‘Hand of the Desert’ in Antofagasta. The second 460 kilometre stage was fought out over some very rapid and rock-filled off-piste areas as riders also got their first taste of the dunes of Bahía Inglesa towards the end of the run.

Team HRC headed out poised to attack, hoping to pull back some time and improve on overall times. However both Paulo Gonçalves and Kevin Benavides crashed in separate incidents. Portuguese Gonçalves had got off to a swift start but fell injuring his abdomen forcing a stage strategy rethink. The rider went into damage limitation mode, cutting the risks and managing to make it home without significant loss of time. Gonçalves holds third place overall. 

Likewise, Kevin Benavides was also to crash in a high-speed zone on one of the shorter tracks. The impact damaged the front end of the Honda CRF450 RALLY although the Argentine fortunately escaped without injury. Pressing on, he was able to post a third spot on the day, just several minutes behind the stage winner. The rider from Salta now lies in fourth in the general rankings.

Ricky Brabec continues with his apprenticeship in the Chilean desert on his first participation in the Atacama Rally. After a rapid start the American slowed down the pace in the second part of the special, but remains in the top five in the general standings.

Thursday, will see the third stage disputed around the Bahía Inglesa loop which will take in over 200 kilometres of the Copiapó region where navigation could prove to be decisive. 

Paulo Goncalves | Stage: 4th Overall: 3rd
''We’ve finished the longest stage of the rally: full on, really difficult and with loads of navigation and fast track with rocks. I’m really happy with the bike: the work that we have been putting in is paying off. I fell at kilometre 14 and I injured myself in the abdomen area. I’m happy that I made it back without any other problems and I’m pleased with the way that the bike is performing.''

Kevin Benavides | Stage: 3rd Overall: 4th
''Things were going really well until the neutralization, but after I just wanted to get it out the way as quickly as possible. When I started the second part, I was very motivated. There was a ridge that wasn’t marked in the roadbook and I fell. I broke the navigation instrument panel and had to finish with it loose. I had to hang on to it with one hand to not do any more damage but the bike held up really well in spite of everything. Now it’s time to focus on the stage tomorrow.''

Ricky Brabec | Stage: 5th Overall: 5th
''Today was the longest stage of the rally, with 467 kilometres of special and was actually quite a fast one. The ending was sandy for the last ten to twenty kilometres. It went well but I lost concentration a bit after the restart and slowed down a bit. It was a tough stage. So now we will see where we are but I’m happy and looking forward to riding again tomorrow.''

Martino Bianchi | Team HRC General Manager
"The second stage was far from being an easy one for Team HRC. Paulo fell in the first part and Kevin Benavides in the second. I’m very pleased that the falls weren’t serious like they could easily have been. No one got injured and they will be able to carry on. It has been a long and tough day with a quite fast special with rocks and some dunes towards the end. They lost a bit of time, but nothing dramatic. The riders are all well-situated in the general standings and can still make an impact overall. Ricky Brabec was going really well in the first part but gave away a bit of time in the second, but he is doing well in the overall standings. Thanks a lot to the mechanics who are doing a great job here and thanks to all the fans who are following us all around the globe."

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