Chile’s Paulo Quintanilla edged out his KTM teammate Matthias Walkner to take the Atacama Rally trophy home.
It was the third victory in a row for Quintanilla in the Atacama Rally but only the first time the Chilean won the battle against the elite of rally racers worldwide. Being the fifth and penultimate round of the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship this year the Atacama Rally was a great test for KTM’s and Honda’s official riders ahead of the prestigious Dakar Rally.
After a short curtain-raising prologue won by Honda’s Paulo Goncalves, the race continued through the vast desert of Atacama in northern Chile. Due to torrential rain the weeks prior to the event, officials were forced to reduce the length of some stages. Goncalves went on to win another two stages (stages two and five) but a nearly catastrophic stage one with mechanical issues forced the Portuguese to a sixth overall at the end of the week.
The fight for victory was decided on the last stage between Quintanilla and Matthias Walkner who was leading the overall standings up to that point. Starting the last stage behind Walkner, Quintanilla could easily catch the Austrian with the KTM duo battling it out till the last few kilometres.
“It was not easy to win. It’s never easy but Matthias (Walkner) made it more complicated for me. The possibility of a final victory landed on my mind just 30km before the finish as Matthias was lost. I had my chance and I took it” said Quintanilla.
Ending up with a stage win (stage four) and a second overall Matthias Walkner said: “I have to be satisfied with my second place. The bike was good and navigation was extremely difficult. The road book was not always straightforward to follow. I made a mistake at about 30km before the finish so I just decided to take an all or nothing approach and go for it for the rest of the stage.”
After a solid run British rider Sam Sunderland ended up with a podium third place: “I’m happy to finish in third overall. It was a tricky rally and I made a few mistakes but in the end it was a good race. It’s always good to ride here in South America because it is similar to what we’ll be seeing in the Dakar. There were some days where the road book was complicated and we have to get used to new things like the speed zones.”
On his very first rally outing four-time Enduro World Champion Antoine Meo made a good recovery from a big time penalty to end up 12th overall. Victim of a time penalty too, Australia’s Toby Price recovered to finish 10th.
Overall Standings
1 – Pablo Quintanilla (Chile/KTM) 11 hours 7.34
2 – Matthias Walkner (Austria/KTM) +2.49
3 – Sam Sunderland (UK/KTM) +3.14
4 – Jordi Viladoms (Spain/KTM) +21.28
5 – Daniel Gouet (Chile/Suzuki) +37.48
6 – Paulo Goncalves (Portugal/Honda) +53.02
7 – Felipe Prohens (Chile/KTM) +1:06.14
8 – Jeremias Israel (Chile/Honda) +1:33.52
9 – Mohamme Al Balooshi (UAE/KTM) +1:36.30
10 – Toby Price (Australia/KTM) +1:46.18
11 – Ignacio Cornejo (Chile/Suzuki) +1:50.08
12 – Antoine Meo (France/KTM) +2:01.25
13 – Jordanno Sepulveda (Chile/KTM) +3:19.32
14 – Juan Pablo Zegers (Chile/Suzuki) +3:27.05
15 Francisco Arredondo (Guatemala/KTM) +28.13.44