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.