Team HRC’s trio of riders Paulo Gonçalves, Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec continue to rub shoulders the leaders in the Atacama Rally in spite of suffering the severity of the rally’s longest stage.
It was a long and tough stage today at the Atacama Rally around the spectacular ‘Hand of the Desert’ in Antofagasta. The second 460 kilometre stage was fought out over some very rapid and rock-filled off-piste areas as riders also got their first taste of the dunes of Bahía Inglesa towards the end of the run.
Team HRC headed out poised to attack, hoping to pull back some time and improve on overall times. However both Paulo Gonçalves and Kevin Benavides crashed in separate incidents. Portuguese Gonçalves had got off to a swift start but fell injuring his abdomen forcing a stage strategy rethink. The rider went into damage limitation mode, cutting the risks and managing to make it home without significant loss of time. Gonçalves holds third place overall.
Likewise, Kevin Benavides was also to crash in a high-speed zone on one of the shorter tracks. The impact damaged the front end of the Honda CRF450 RALLY although the Argentine fortunately escaped without injury. Pressing on, he was able to post a third spot on the day, just several minutes behind the stage winner. The rider from Salta now lies in fourth in the general rankings.
Ricky Brabec continues with his apprenticeship in the Chilean desert on his first participation in the Atacama Rally. After a rapid start the American slowed down the pace in the second part of the special, but remains in the top five in the general standings.
Tomorrow, Thursday, will see the third stage disputed around the Bahía Inglesa loop which will take in over 200 kilometres of the Copiapó region where navigation could prove to be decisive.