Stage two of the 2018 Atacama Rally, the longest of the event, saw riders race through the Chilean desert south of the town of Copiapó. Low cloud and fog caused a delay to the start of the 440.88km stage but soon lifted to reveal clear blue skies. Following a challenging first full day’s racing, Sam Sunderland was the 12th rider away from the start of stage two.

Sam Sunderland: “I feel like I am starting to get into my rhythm now…”

Pushing hard to catch his rivals ahead, Sunderland rode a superb 375.91km timed special. Despite a minor fall, the Brit’s total time of just over three hours and 45 minutes was enough to place second fastest, just over a minute behind stage winner Kevin Benavides. The result elevates Sunderland to eighth place in the provisional overall standings with three days left to race.

Sam Sunderland: “I am pleased with today, I started a little way behind because of my stage one result but tried to push right from the beginning. I caught up to a guy in front and unfortunately had a small crash when riding in the dust lifted by his bike. Despite bending my bars a little, I was able to maintain a good pace and finish second. The stage was tricky today, there were a lot of dangers on the route and some difficult terrain. I feel like I am starting to get into my rhythm now and hopefully can keep my speed going for the rest of the rally.”

Toby Price: “I enjoyed riding the stage.”

Toby Price continues to impress. Riding an intelligent stage two, Price posted the third fastest time on the long stage. Successfully defending his third place overall, the Australian now aims to push once again on Thursday’s stage three.

Toby Price: “It was a good day, I enjoyed riding the stage. Navigation was tricky but I just used my experience and concentrated on keeping to the correct route. I’m happy to get the longest stage of the rally done and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Matthias Walkner: “The desert has some really beautiful areas and it was great fun to ride through.”

Reigning Dakar Rally Champion Matthias Walkner has also maintained his consistent run of form, placing fourth fastest after close to four hours of riding. The Austrian is happy with his pace onboard his KTM 450 RALLY and is hoping to carry his momentum into tomorrow’s stage and the halfway point of the event.

Matthias Walkner: “That was a really fast stage today. It started off quite tricky with some rocky sections and fesh-fesh then opened out in the second half to be really quick. I enjoyed the day despite it being so long – the desert has some really beautiful areas and it was great fun to ride through. I knew it would be tough to make up any time today so I tried to stay at a fast but steady pace and get a good start position for tomorrow.”

Stage winner Kevin Benavides: “The feeling on the bike is very good. That makes me confident.”

The 335.17km stage three of the 2018 Atacama Rally features a timed special of 259.27km. It leaves CopiapĂł and heads east towards Ojos del Salado, the highest peak in Chile, before looping back once again to the finish. (source: red bull ktm factory racing)

STORY: Toby Price claims third on Stage One of 2018 Atacama Rally

LINK: Atacama Rally

photos (c) Rally Zone & Kevin Benavides Facebook