Courtesy of KTM Racing
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has won the extremely demanding fourth stage of the 2019 Atacama Rally. Teammate Sam Sunderland finished a close second, just two minutes down on Price. Matthias Walkner claimed his best result of the event so far in fourth with Luciano Benavides claiming 10th.
Not only was stage four the longest of the rally at a total of 426.68 kilometres, it also marked the second half of the event’s marathons stage. With riders unable to receive any outside assistance on their bikes overnight, preserving their machine over the course of the two days was key to a top result.
It was Toby Price who excelled on the 353.92-kilometre timed special. The 2019 Dakar Champion, although making his return to rally competition here at the Atacama Rally, showed he still has the speed and the endurance to claim stage wins despite still suffering a little with his wrist. Making the most of his start position this morning in Diego de Almagro, the Australian took care not to make any mistakes on the long, arduous stage while also reeling in the three riders ahead of him. Moving up to third overall in the provisional rally standings, Price was happy with his performance.
Toby Price:“Stage four has gone well, I was able to push through today. The guys in front made a couple of small mistakes, and I managed to catch their dust and stay there for the rest of the day. Pablo was riding really strong up front and so it was quite a challenge to catch those guys. I was riding with Sam’s bent rear disc too from yesterday, so that meant I had to keep on pumping the brake. That made things a little bit dicey on some of the crests and hills, but I was able to get the stage win, which I am pretty pleased about. One more day tomorrow so the plan is to get out of here safe and then on to Morocco.”
Following a small mistake very early on in the stage, Sam Sunderland was caught by Price and the pair completed the remainder of the long stage together. By maintaining such a strong pace, the British rider was able to make up valuable time on provisional rally leader Pablo Quintanilla and now trails the Chilean rider by less than one minute going into the final stage.
Sam Sunderland:“Yeah, it was the second half of the marathon stage today so obviously we’re trying to look after the bikes as best as we can and the tyres are a bit worn, but it’s the same situation for everybody. It was a really long stage today too, I enjoyed it but there were a lot of rocky, technical bits before we reached the dunes. I made a bit of a mistake early on by not riding directly on the train tracks, Toby caught me pretty soon after that but we kept up a good rhythm for the rest of the day and ended up finishing first and second. I’m looking forward to the last stage tomorrow now.”
Placing fourth fastest on stage four, Matthias Walkner continues to improve his confidence onboard his KTM 450 RALLY. The Austrian’s stage time, just over four minutes down on Price, was enough to move up two places in the provisional standings to eighth. Pleased with his result, the 2018 Dakar Champion now looks forward to the final day.
Matthias Walkner:“It was a really long and really fast stage today. I think it went pretty well for me, the leaders did a good job of navigating out front so I just tried to follow the lines and stick to a solid rhythm. I’m still not quite used to the pace yet, so I’ve been working on getting my navigation right and not making any mistakes with my road book. I really enjoyed the stage today but know I have a few things to work on to match the pace of the leaders. Last day tomorrow, so I’m hoping for a strong finish to the rally.”
Luciano Benavides put in another solid ride on stage four to once again finish inside the top 10. The 24-year-old leads the current FIM Cross-Country Rallies Junior World Championship rankings and hopes to defend that position with a strong overall result after the final stage on Saturday.
Luciano Benavides:“It was such a long stage today – I found it very mentally draining. It was good fun though and I really enjoyed the last part in the dunes. These stages are so fast and it makes it tricky to focus for so long at those speeds. The bike was ok, I managed to look after it for the whole two-day marathon stage. So, I hope to get another good finish tomorrow and some good points for the championship.”
Saturday’s fifth and final stage of the 2019 Atacama Rally covers a total of 260.13 kilometres. A 184.59-kilometre timed special will challenge riders once again with fast pistes and rocky terrain on their way to the chequered flag.
Provisional Results – Stage 4 Atacama Rally 2019
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:07:28
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:09:37 +2:09
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:09:58 +2:30
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:11:54 +4:26
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 4:13:09 +5:41
10. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:18:43 +11:15
Provisional Standings – Atacama Rally 2019 after 4 of 5 stages
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 13:17:57
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 13:18:51 +54 seconds
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 13:23:17 +5:20
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 13:24:39 +6:42
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 13:26:56 +8:59
8. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 13:42:07 +24:10
10. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 13:47:46 +29:49