Atacama Rally stage 3: Kevin Benavides makes progress

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Argentinean Kevin Benavides today rode a fine stage in the Copiapó dunes. The demanding stage saw the Team HRC prodigy excel in navigation as he took second spot on the day and second in the general standings.

It may not have been the longest yet, but the third stage and halfway point of the Atacama Rally, was a real navigational workout in the dunes. The competitors got away from the bivouac at Bahía Inglesa at 10:00 with the 202.78 kilometre special beginning an hour and a half later in the arid dune-filled zone of Copiapó.

Yesterday evening had seen the frontrunners affected by various sanctions. Local lad Pablo Quintanilla dropped from second place to fourth as a result of the six minute penalty for breaking the limit in a speed check zone. This moved the Team HRC riders Kevin Benavides and Paulo Gonçalves up a position in the second stage results, finishing second and third respectively. 

Kevin Benavides was off like a bat out of hell this morning which meant he was soon able to catch up with Australian Toby Price. The Argentinean Team HRC rider jostled with the Australian until the pair crossed the finish-line together. The rider from Salta finished in second place, a position that he now also occupies in the overall table.

Paulo Gonçalves was less fortunate. The Portuguese rider was hampered all day by an injured abdomen, the result of a heavy fall in yesterday’s stage. Another fall and a minor navigational gaff meant the Team HRC regular dropped time to his adversaries.

Team HRC’s American rider Ricky Brabec didn’t have the greatest day out either, losing time whilst hunting down an elusive waypoint. On a positive note the young American has been making considerable progress in his learning with the navigational skills.

Tomorrow’s fourth stage will also feature a looping circuit, although this time the riders will begin by heading south bound for Vallenar before heading back to Bahía Inglesa. Will be 370 kms of Special stage.

Paulo Goncalves | Stage: 4th Overall: 4th
"Today was a particularly difficult stage. I had a lot of abdomen pain and the bumps hurt me a lot. At kilometre 100, there was a waypoint on top of a dune which I didn’t reach fast enough. On the way down while attempting to reach it again I fell and lost a bit of time. It was very painful. I also got lost in a really tricky zone for the navigation. Not a good day at all for me, but we have to press on and keep putting in the kilometres and try to get a good result.

Kevin Benavides | Stage: 2nd Overall: 2nd
"It was a difficult stage for the navigation – the most difficult one that we have done yet. I think that I kept a very good pace. I reached Toby Price, who was leading and we kept passing each other because the navigation was pretty complicated. But we kept up the speed all the same. I’m pleased because I had a very good third stage."

Ricky Brabec | Stage: 8th Overall: 6th
"Today was one of the toughest days that we have had so far. It wasn’t very good until the last fifty kilometres as there was a waypoint every two kilometres. For me it was a really difficult stage. I made a mistake, got a bit confused and did a couple of circles before getting back on the right path. But I made it back safely and I’m ready to go tomorrow. Let’s see how things work out."

Martino Bianchi | Team HRC General Manager
"Today was quite a hard stage with a lot of sand: a typical Dakar stage. Kevin Benavides was very fast. He arrived together with Price at the end of the special. He navigated really well and was very fast in all types of terrain. We are sorry for Paulo who was pushing really hard but crashed. He lost a lot of time but we are happy because he’s not injured. Ricky Brabec also crashed and had a few problems finding the right way. We still have two riders in the top four. It’s a tough race but we will keep battling."

Provisional general standings after Stage 3

1 Price Toby | AUS | KTM Factory Racing Team |  8:19'26

2 Benavides Kevin | ARG |  Team HRC| + 4'08

3 Quintanilla Pablo | CHI | Husqvarna Factory Rally Team | + 6'21

4 Goncalves Paulo | POR | Team HRC | + 7'44

5 Walkner Matthias | AUT |  KTM Factory Racing Team | + 26'11

6 Brabec Ricky | USA | Team HRC | + 31'40

7 Sunderland Sam | GBR | Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team | + 32'02

8 Caimi Franco | ARG | Honda South America Rally Team | + 48'05

9 Cornejo José | CHI |  XRaids | + 50'03

10 Prohens Felipe | CHI | Team Hermanos Prohens | + 1:08'25