Monster Energy Honda Team set out to keep all options open and succeeded in the longest stage of the Atacama Rally.
Kevin Benavides took the stage victory and overall leadership while Paulo Gonçalves will go into the final stage well-positioned to fight for a spot on the rostrum.
Monster Energy Honda Team’s Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides took top honours for the second time in the 2017 Atacama Rally. The fastest stage was, once again, a white knuckle, hazard-filled ride at full gas. Kevin was head and shoulders above the rest of the field, storming to the top of the leader board in the overall rankings with just a day’s racing left.
Team-mate Paulo Gonçalves set out from the camp in Mejillones this morning in second starting position. The Portuguese rider held a storming pace over the 375 kilometre trek to Iquique although he dropped precious time validating a waypoint in the latter stretches of the race. Paulo lies in fourth place overall.
Kevin and Paulo will both be looking for podium finishes when the race wraps up tomorrow. The end results will be battled out in the final stage held entirely in the dunes of Copiapó.
- A review of the times last night moved Kevin Benavides to third place in the day’s standings instead of the fourth place initially awarded.
- 361 kilometres of coastal road separate Mejillones from Iquique, parallel to the Pacific Ocean, with the assistance vehicles taking Route 5 further inland.
- The fourth stage was the longest in the entire Atacama Rally 2017, with a total of 547.33 kilometres, of which 375 kilometres were against the clock in a very fast stage with long swathes of stony tracks and a final part in the sand dunes of Iquique.
- The start was again delayed for 1h05′ due to the appearance of the camanchaca mist which prevented the safety helicopter taking off.
- The final stretches of this fourth stage took place on the famous descent of the Iquique dunes, Los Verdes, which similarly had hosted a stage in the 2015 Dakar.
- The fifth and final stage will be held tomorrow in Iquique. The special stage will be a last chance for the favourites to confirm their positions and a final opportunity for the outsiders to improve their positions.
Today we had a long 375 kilometre special. The first 330 km were very fast and very dangerous tracks full of lots of potholes, loads of stones, but I think I did quite well. Pity that the last 50 kilometres were sand and dunes, because I made a navigation error that cost me some time. In the end, I was able to sort it out and I ended up in a good position in spite of what had happened. Tomorrow will be the last day and I will try to finish as best I can.
I won this fourth stage and it is my second victory so far in this Atacama Rally. Of the 375 kilometres of special, 300 were very, very dangerous but in the final 70 km we went into the dunes in Iquique, before ending up in this beautiful city. I felt great on the bike; I think I did things very well despite a slight navigation error on the final waypoint in the dunes, where I lost a bit of time. I am happy, because I am leader of the general standings with just a day to go. We will have to fight to the very end.