Monster Energy Honda get the Atacama Rally underway with fine results
Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec performed well on the first stage of the Atacama Rally. Joan Barreda and Nacho Cornejo likewise got off to a swift start in the Chilean desert to complete a fine stage for the Monster Energy Honda squad.
The first 270-kilometre special stage of the Atacama Rally was a quick one, featuring some areas of dunes as well as hard track in other stretches. The navigation in the area surrounding Copiapó, although not the most demanding, required riders had to have their wits about them to successfully negotiate the many tracks signalled in the roadbook.
Current Atacama Rally champion, Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides, showed consistent pace to place third on the day after setting off from a starting position that allowed him to hunt down the riders ahead. Ricky Brabec was also on the offensive, finishing behind Benavides. The American came home less than a minute behind his team-mate. Meanwhile Joan Barreda claimed a satisfying final finish after a damaged wheel obliged the Spaniard to take a more cautious approach and not force the Honda CRF450 RALLY to its limit. Barreda eventually posted sixth on the day.
It proved to be a good start for the team’s youngest rider, José Ignacio Cornejo, who soon found himself at the head of the field, having to open the track for almost 250 kilometres. Monster Energy Honda’s Chilean rider kept up a scorching pace to fend off the field who were unable to catch him, which saw Nacho crossing the finish-line in Copiapó alone.
Tomorrow sees the second stage, with one of the longest specials at 370 kilometres, starting in Copiapó and concluding in Vallenar.
Kevin Benavides STAGE 3RD OVERALL: 3RD It was the first day, so a good chance to warm up the engines here in the desert. I felt good, very comfortable. I like the bike set-up. We are on the right track. The stage was very picturesque and very varied with dunes, valleys, rapids, rivers … a bit of everything really. The starting position he had wasn’t the greatest, but soon we had Nacho opening the track with me in behind him. His speed was good, so we arrived at the finish-line with great pace.
Ricky Brabec STAGE 4TH OVERALL: 4TH Stage one was pretty fast today. The bike felt really good and I felt really good. I’m happy to be here at 100%, with the Team. We are all here, and in one piece, and we are all smiling as we had a good day. This is just the start. I’m looking forward to the next four days so there is a long way to go from here. Everything is good – I’m happy and the bike is working well, so we’ll keep pushing.
Joan Barreda STAGE 6TH OVERALL: 7TH It was the first day in the sand with very fast areas. At the beginning of the stage I hit a rock and damaged the wheel. I didn’t know if I would be able to reach the end of the special and I lost concentration a little. While in the sandy areas the bike was going well, but on the harder track I had to ease things up a bit. I think that in spite of everything I kept up a good pace and salvaged something out of the stage.
José Ignacio Cornejo STAGE 7TH OVERALL: 8TH I’ve finished the first stage and I think it went well. I started out in fourth with some slower riders ahead, so by kilometre 30 I was opening the track. I was focusing hard on keeping up a good pace and not making any mistakes. I think I did a good job, because I came to the end alone and no-one had caught me up. Obviously they made up time on me but I’m nevertheless happy with my ride and the bike, which was perfect.