Wednesday 16 August
Third stage: Taltal – Mejillones
Link section: 21.87 km – Special: 349 km – Link section 116.40 km – Total: 487.27 km
As every morning, to escape the coastal fog, the start of the Special was given at 11 h. This third Special struck out on a gravel trail across the plateaus some twenty kilometres from the little town of Taltal. After a 349 km selective sector over fairly fast terrain, Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), who took a 2’ penalty for speeding in a DZ, nevertheless won the stage with a lead of 1’34 over Paulo Gonçalves (Honda), 2’41 over the day’s trail opener Kevin Benavides (Honda), and 3’37 over Sam Sunderland (KTM).
Despite the penalty, this fine performance by the Chilean keeps him atop the leader board, 2’48 ahead of Kevin Benavides. “I feel really good at the moment”, says reigning FIM Cross Country Rallies World Champion Quintanilla. “I am very happy, not just with my performance but also with my bike and my pace during the race. We set off a bit late this morning so the fog could disperse and the helicopter could fly. Today’s Special was very fast with some very tricky loose gravel. I tried to keep up a good pace but without taking too many risks. My team did an extraordinary job and I can’t wait to ride the next two stages.”
In second place was Paulo Gonçalves, who took a 6’ penalty the first day but continues to fight for the top spot as always. “It was a very long stage today with difficult trails”, the Honda rider confides. “We already covered the trails of the second part in the Dakar. The surface was very broken up and I tried to ride fast without getting into trouble, so I’m happy to have taken second place.”
Kevin Benavides (Honda) in third did pretty well considering he opened the trail all day. Behind him, in fourth position, Sam Sunderland (KTM) missed a waypoint at the end of the Special and had to put in an extra 2 km to get it checked.
In the Yamaha camp, Xavier de Soultrait and Adrien Van Beveren found riding on very fast trails of loose stone not much to their liking and were not too thrilled with their day.
In quad, Peru’s Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha), won the stage with a lead of 20 seconds over Kees Koolen (Yamaha) from the Netherlands and Ignacio Casale (Yamaha).
Tomorrow the Atacama Rally will continue its northward climb and finish the stage in Iquique.
Full classification: http://www.acryr.com.ar/tiempos/2017/atacama/MENU.HTM
Provisional standings of Special 3, motorcycles
1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) in 3h18’43
2. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) at 1’34
3. Kevin Benavides (Honda) at 2’41
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) at 3’37
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) at 4’08
Provisional overall standings, motorcycles
1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) in 7h22’23
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) at 2’48
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) at 9’52
4. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) at 10’17
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) at 10’19
Provisional standings of Special 3, quads
1. Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha) in 4h22’13
2. Kees Koolen (Yamaha) at 0’20
3. Ignacio Casale (Yamaha) at 3’47
Provisional overall standings, quads
1. Ignacio Casale (Yamaha) in 9h37’22
2. Kees Koolen (Yamaha) at 19’23
3. Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha) at 19’23