Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec performed well on the first stage of the Atacama Rally. Joan Barreda and Nacho Cornejo likewise got off to a swift start in the Chilean desert to complete a fine stage for the Monster Energy Honda squad.
The first 270-kilometre special stage of the Atacama Rally was a quick one, featuring some areas of dunes as well as hard track in other stretches. The navigation in the area surrounding Copiapó, although not the most demanding, required riders had to have their wits about them to successfully negotiate the many tracks signalled in the roadbook.
Current Atacama Rally champion, Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides, showed consistent pace to place third on the day after setting off from a starting position that allowed him to hunt down the riders ahead. Ricky Brabec was also on the offensive, finishing behind Benavides. The American came home less than a minute behind his team-mate. Meanwhile Joan Barreda claimed a satisfying final finish after a damaged wheel obliged the Spaniard to take a more cautious approach and not force the Honda CRF450 RALLY to its limit. Barreda eventually posted sixth on the day.
It proved to be a good start for the team’s youngest rider, José Ignacio Cornejo, who soon found himself at the head of the field, having to open the track for almost 250 kilometres. Monster Energy Honda’s Chilean rider kept up a scorching pace to fend off the field who were unable to catch him, which saw Nacho crossing the finish-line in Copiapó alone.
Tomorrow sees the second stage, with one of the longest specials at 370 kilometres, starting in Copiapó and concluding in Vallenar.