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Kevin Benavides at the 2018 Atacama Rally
NEWS

Benavides rules the Atacama in latest FIM Rallies outing

Aug 192018

For the second time this year Monster Energy Honda Team’s Kevin Benavides excelled on South American sand and soil as the Argentine powered through a fast and tricky Atacama Rally in Chile to clinch victory in the third round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

The 2018 Dakar runner-up showed his acumen through the desert setting to toast a significant result for the factory HRC crew, and with one eye on the testing and set-up work towards the 2019 Dakar spectacle. He blasted through the last timing gate in first position for three of the five stages.

Although the Atacama clocked in at just over 1200km (less than a quarter of the brutal Dakar trajectory and staged over five days compared to the two weeks schedule for the flagship event) the challenges throughout the last week and into the decisive final stint with a loop starting and finishing in Copiapó meant hard work and a challenge for the full Honda line-up.

 

A mixture of fast tracks and trails, dunes, diverse desert landscape and emphasis on navigation skills and estimation showed Benavides to be in strong form while the likes of Paulo Gonçalves (6th), Jose Ignacion Cornejo (7th) and Ricky Brabec (8th) also picked up the pace. An important factor of Honda’s win involved the level of competition: reigning world champ Pablo Quintanilla and KTM’s full works roster were also ripping through the sand.

“I'm very happy; it has been an amazing Atacama Rally for me,” said Benavides, who will now try to go ‘back-to-back’ in front of home fans with Argentina’s most important off-road race – the Desafio Ruta 40 – happening next week. “I won three stages and I felt very comfortable on the bike, which has worked perfectly throughout the event. The team has worked very well and this has given me the tools needed for the victory. I was able to stay very focused and was confident in myself. Winning here is not easy - Quintanilla is very strong. I've been looking forward to this victory for a long time and I’m really savouring it!”

 

Monster Energy Honda will assess Joan Barreda’s condition after the Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the running due to an injury and will move across the border and to San Miguel de Tucumán to prepare for another challenging shakedown before the end of August. The Argentine Rally is the penultimate chase in the 2018 FIM contest.

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