Bittersweet taste after the first Atacama Rally stage: victory for Benavides as Barreda retires

Monster Energy Honda Team got to grips today with the first full stage of the Atacama Rally, grabbing a decisive win for Kevin Benavides in the dunes of Copiapó. Joan Barreda suffered a heavy fall that saw him obliged to drop out of the race.

Yesterday’s short afternoon prologue in Tierra Amarilla, a town just fifteen kilometres from Copiapo, brought some surprises, as the top riders were at their smartest strategically, to avoid starting out from the front when the first stage of the competition got underway. Thus, Paulo Gonçalves, José Ignacio Cornejo, Joan Barreda and Kevin Benavides all chalked up less-than-their-best qualification times, which paid off in the form of optimal starting positions for today’s first stage, most posting twenty-fifth place or more. Ricky Brabec finished tenth in the prologue which meant the American was the first of the Monster Energy Honda Team riders to take the field, eventually producing a fifth overall position.

By the time the stage was done, the fastest of all the participants had proved to be Argentine Monster Energy Honda Team rider, Kevin Benavides. The delayed start benefited the rider who was been able to set a formidable pace, strong enough to post the day’s best time. However, with the addition of the prologue time, Kevin now lies in second spot in the overall standings.

Paulo Gonçalves experienced some navigational hiccups today which saw him drop some time before finishing eighth. Meanwhile American rider Ricky Brabec found himself opening the track during the first kilometres of the special. The Californian made it through to the flag with an error-free ride and continues to accrue valuable navigational experience. Ricky finished ninth on the day.

The young Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo set a solid pace but lost time due to a fall which meant that he finished the day amidst the group of his team-mates, in tenth place.