Thursday, September 5
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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