Honda’s Kevin Benavides Claims Atacama Rally Win Ahead of Toby Price

Author: Garry Morrow


Monster Energy Honda Team‰Ûªs Kevin Benavides took the win and is now tied on first on the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship leader board. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Monster Energy Honda Team‰Ûªs Kevin Benavides rounded off the Atacama Rally in Chile as he had started; proving to be the sharpest rider in the race, claiming the final stage and the overall rally victory after an intense final day.

Australian Toby Price has finished the fifth and final stage in second place and in turn earned a strong runner-up result in the final standings. World Champion Pablo Quintanilla was third home and claimed third overall.

The final day, on a 155-kilometre looping route, starting and finishing in CopiapÌ_, was battled out over the same course that had been used in Stage One. Competitors had to have their wits about them and were faced with some challenging navigation in the dunes as well as some off-piste and dry river beds.
Kevin Benavides on his way to the final stage and overall win. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Benavides dominated, stamping his mark of authority throughout the stage and leaving adversaries unable to keep his trail. Moreover, the victory takes Benavides and the Honda CRF450 RALLY to the head of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship leader board, where he now shares the same points as the incumbent world champion Pablo Quintanilla.

"I'm very happy; it has been an amazing Atacama Rally for me," the Argentinean said. "I won three stages and I felt very comfortable on the bike, which has worked perfectly throughout the even. The team has worked very well and this has given me the tools needed for the victory. I was able to stay very focused and was confident in myself. Winning here is not easy - Quintanilla is very strong. I've been looking forward to this victory for a long time and I‰Ûªm really savouring it!
After winning the prologue, Toby Price was never out of the top three, coming home second overall., 4 minutes adrift of the winner Kevin Benavides. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Second away from the start of Saturday‰Ûªs final stage, Toby Price knew he would have to push hard to make up time on the provisional rally leader Benavides. With the stage covering a lot of the area previously used in the rally, there were many traces left in the Chilean sand to confuse riders and upset their navigation.

Posting the second fastest time for the day, Price was less than five minutes behind the overall winner after a full week of racing. Pleased with his performance over the course of the rally, the Australian now looks forward to his next outing in Argentina.
Toby Price's second place has elevated him to fourth in the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship standings. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
‰ÛÏIt was a good day today, it was always going to be tough to make up enough time to take the win, especially over such a short stage. Nevertheless, I‰Ûªm happy with how the day and the whole rally has gone," Price said. "I set out at the beginning of the event to ride consistently and get back up to speed with the bike and the navigation and I think I have managed that. To finish second after such a tricky race is good and sets me up well for Argentina. Hopefully I can deliver more of the same, stay fit and healthy and put in another good performance.‰Û
Third overall sees defending champion Pablo Quintanilla tied with Kevin Benavides at the top of the 2018 points table. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Once again demonstrating his potential in demanding multi-stage rallies, Pablo Quintanilla was a force to be reckoned with. Runner-up in the event‰Ûªs first full rally stage, the Chilean secured victory on stage three and another strong third place result on Saturday‰Ûªs fifth and final stage for third overall.

Quintanilla remains focused on the goal of defending his title for a third consecutive season.
Pablo Quintanilla remains focused on the goal of defending his title for a third consecutive season. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
‰ÛÏI felt good throughout the week and I‰Ûªm happy with third overall," Quintanilla said. "Following my small injury a few weeks ago, the goal entering this event was to get back my confidence and that is exactly what I did. I won a stage and lead the overall until my mistake on stage four. I‰Ûªm satisfied with third at this race, but the most important thing is that I‰Ûªm back on the right track and I can keep on pushing hard for the World Championship. I want to thank all the members of our team for all their hard work during the week and I am confident we will come back stronger next week in Argentina.‰Û
Matthias Walkner took a stage win on his way to fourth overall. Photo: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Winning the previous day‰Ûªs stage, Matthias Walkner was assigned with the demanding task of opening the tracks on the final stage. Despite the added difficulty of many tracks being on the ground already, the 2018 Dakar Rally champion used his considerable knowledge and experience to successfully navigate to the finish in fourth on stage without any mistakes. Placing just off the podium in fourth overall, Matthias was satisfied with his overall performance during the week.

"I enjoyed the rally, but I am glad we have now reached the finish. Today‰Ûªs stage was shorter at 150km, but was still very tricky due to all the traces from the last few days ‰ÛÒ sometimes you follow the same route and then you have to decide when to turn off and follow a new one," Walkner explained.

"To be the first rider to the finish feels great, even though I did lose a little time over the course of the day. I know if I hadn‰Ûªt got lost earlier in the week my overall result today could have been better, but overall, I am happy with my riding. We have done some good work on the bike this week, the suspension is feeling really good, so thanks to my team for that. We‰Ûªll head now to the Ruta 40 and hopefully improve a little more there too.‰Û
Yamaha's Franco Caimi rounded out the overall top five after a consitent Rally that saw the Argetinian in the top ten on all stages.

The next appointment for the World Championship will be at the DesafÌ_o Ruta 40 in Argentina to be held at the end of next week. The race will take place from 25th to 31st August getting underway in San Miguel de TucumÌÁn and concluding in San Juan.

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