After the successes of the recent Baja Aragón, where the Monster Energy Honda Team clinched a noteworthy victory, the team now takes to the Chilean desert to tackle the third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – the Atacama Rally.
The Monster Energy Honda Team’s next world championship adventure will take place in the north of Chile from 12th to 18th August. The campaign will be spearheaded by the duo of Paulo Gonçalves (Portugal) and Kevin Benavides (Argentina) who participated in the two previous world championship events in Abu Dhabi and Qatar in April.
The rider from Salta, Argentina, now fully-recovered from the injury that forced him to sit out the Dakar 2017, will be looking to regain the pace required for top-level rally competition in the build-up to the season’s main event – the 2018 Dakar Rally. Last year Benavides made it onto the podium in the Chilean race and aims to improve on this result in this year’s edition. For Portuguese rider Gonçalves the objective will be to put in a satisfactory performance in the Chilean desert that could earn precious points towards the championship title. Likewise, the rally should prove to be invaluable training ahead of the Dakar – the season’s biggest challenge for the Monster Energy Honda Team.
The Atacama Rally kicks off in Copiapó with a 15-kilometre prologue and finishes in Iquique, in the north of the country, after having disputed a total distance of 1960 kilometres, featuring 1430 kilometres of special stage.
What the riders had to say:
Paulo Goncalves We’ve now arrived at a very important part of the season in which it’s going to be important to do things right in the decisive phase as we head towards the Dakar. We have done some testing and with this, the Atacama Rally, and then after, the Ruta 40, it will be really important to make sure that we are on the right track.
Kevin Benavides This will be a really important race for me. I had an injury that ruled me out of last year’s Dakar and I returned to the action in the Middle East, where the important thing was to work on the wrist and make sure that that was fully-recovered. Now, the time has come to try and get better results on ‘home soil’, both here and at the Ruta 40. It is going to be important to try and get the pace back and try to bond well with the rest of the team.
Pictures: Honda Racing Coroporation