Red Bull KTM Factory Team stand tall in heat of Rally Atacama
The Red Bull KTM Factory Team are tackling the perilous dunes of Rally Atacama. After two desert stages, all four bikers are placed in the Top 10 after battling their way through dry riverbeds, fesh-fesh, rocky paths and high-speed tracks.
As the team prepares for next year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia they are testing themselves over some of the toughest rally-raid terrain on the planet. The dunes of Chilean desert region of Copiapó have already served up two brutal days of racing, but so far the team have been equal to the challenge.
Sam Sunderland (GBR) is the current leader of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and is on course to add more points to his tally in Chile. Sunderland is third overall after two stages of Rally Atacama, with podium finishes on both early stages.
“I’m happy with where I am and I’ll keep taking things day by day. I made some changes overnight with the bike and it’s working really good.” – Sam Sunderland
Rally Atacama is the first rally-raid of the year for two-time Dakar champion Toby Price (AUS). Price was straight back on the pace as he won the prologue stage and sits fifth overall with three desert stages remaining.
“It’s been fun out there riding the bike once again. I’ve enjoyed all the stages we’ve had so far. Today was a really, really fast one.” – Toby Price
Luciano Benavides (ARG) is targeting success in Junior Class of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship this season. With impressive rides at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Silk Way Rally earlier in the year, Benavides could yet be on for another podium result here.
“Overall, it was a solid stage for me. I’m trying to get better step by step and improve my confidence in this desert. Lots of things are still all new for me.” – Luciano Benavides
Like Price, Matthias Walkner (AUT) is also returning to racing his KTM Rally 450 after an injury layoff. Walkner got the 295-kilometre second stage of Rally Atacama off to an encouraging start before suffering a crash near the end. Fortunately, the 2018 Dakar champion was able to get back on his bike and find the finish line.
“The crash was nothing big, but it destroyed my GPS. I managed to fix it, but it kept falling off the bike as I went on. In the end I had to ride with one hand, holding my GPS with the other.” – Matthias Walkner
Tomorrow brings the third of five desert stages and is also the first part of the marathon stage. After riding 370km the riders will not have any contact with their mechanics so they must fix any problems incurred on the stage themselves.
Rally Atacama concludes on Saturday, September 7.
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Rally Atacama Stage Two – Bikes
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda 03:03:09
2. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda +00:56
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM +02:42
4. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +02:48
8. Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM +08:23
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM +15:24
Rally Atacama Overall (after two stages) – Bikes
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda 05:41:09
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna +00:37
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM +00:57
5. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +05:25
9. Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM +16:01
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM +17:42
Sam Sunderland: “Today’s stage was a lot different compared with yesterday’s stage. There was a lot of broken track and stones out there making things difficult for everybody. I felt good and was able to maintain a decent pace throughout the stage. I was able to catch up with Pablo (Quintanilla) in the last part so the end was quite dusty. I’m happy with where I am and I’ll keep taking things day by day. I made some changes overnight with the bike and it’s working really good.”
Toby Price: “Today was a good day. It’s been fun out there riding the bike once again. I’ve enjoyed all the stages we’ve had so far. Today was a really, really fast one. I had to keep focussed throughout and keep on the right track. All in all it’s been another good day and we’re happy to be at the finish line. We’ll continue on our way again tomorrow.”
Luciano Benavides: “We’ve finished the second stage in Chile. It was a really hard stage. The first part was really fast and dangerous. The second part was more rocky, with tricky navigation. Overall, it was a solid stage for me. I’m trying to get better step by step and improve my confidence in this desert. Lots of things are still all new for me. It was a good day and I lost less minutes than yesterday.”
Matthias Walkner: “Up until about 200km it was a really good day for me. I was enjoying my riding, going fast and feeling good. The average speed was up around 115-120kph. I was feeling confident about how things were going. But then we arrived in a bumpy section with many stones and I had a small crash in a riverbed. The crash was nothing big, but it destroyed my GPS. I managed to fix it, but it kept falling off the bike as I went on. In the end I had to ride with one hand, holding my GPS with the other. This cost me a lot of time. On paper it was a bad day, but I’m happy to be going in the right direction.”
Find daily still images and multiple stories around Rally Atacama on Red Bull Content Pool here
Watch 26 minutes of highlights from the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge here
… and highlights from the 2019 Rally Kazakhstan here
Interested in offroad action – our full Dune Days VLOG playlist can be seen here
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