Following on from yesterday’s second place in the opening Prologue, Sam Sunderland went one better to claim victory on a tough 322km special stage one. The KTM 450 RALLY mounted rider was the 14th to set off this morning, which gave him the perfect opportunity to chase down the leading riders. With tracks to follow, good navigation and incredible speed on the difficult terrain, Sunderland showed why he is the leading rider in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Sunderland: “That was a pretty heavy stage to start us off with, they really threw us in the deep end. It was very physically demanding and a little dangerous too. The terrain was rough and there were a few broken pistes – it caught some of the other riders unfortunately. Obviously, it’s always good to get a stage win, but it’s still early in the rally so I’ll try to stay focused for tomorrow and hopefully keep up this pace.”
Sunderland’s team-mate, Matthias Walkner rode hard today, aiming to make up time for his navigational error in yesterday’s Prologue. Walkner put in a good ride on what was a very dusty, dangerous, stage to finish seventh, 17 minutes behind Sunderland.
Walkner: “That was a very rough day – extremely dusty too. Starting from the back is good because you have a lot of tracks to follow, but today catching other riders meant riding through their dust. My rhythm was not too bad today, I did have a big crash in one of the riverbeds later on in the stage, but luckily got going again without hurting myself too badly. I still need to up my pace a little and plan on working on that for the rest of the rally. I’m happy to finish today unhurt and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
KTM Rally Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides showed good pace today on his first full day for the KTM team. He rode well, gaining good experience, to post the 12th fastest time of the day. Unfortunately, the young Argentinian had a large crash when unsighted by the dust on the stage and will be ruled out of the rest of the event.
Benavides: “I am so disappointed. Especially as this is my first rally for the team, I feel I have let them down. I crashed because I couldn’t see in the dust lifted by the riders in front – I went down hard and hurt my shoulder. I have no choice now but to retire from the rally. It’s such a shame to miss the rest of my home event, but I need to concentrate now on my recovery and getting fit again for the next rally.”
The 437km stage two of the 2017 Desafio Ruta 40 takes riders north from Villa Unión, before turning back on themselves and finishing in the city of Tinogasta.
Provisional Results Stage One – Desafio Ruta 40 2017
1. Sam Sunderland, (GBR), KTM, 3:40:55
2. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:44:17 +3:22
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:46:48 +5:53
4. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda, 3:48:00 +7:05
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:52:26 +11:31
7. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:58:12 +17:17
9. Daniel Nosiglia (BOL), KTM, 4:13:06 +32:11
10. Martin Duplessis (ARG), KTM, 4:16:24 +35:29
12. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:37:04 +56:09
Provisional Standings – Desafio Ruta 40 after 1 of 5 stages
1. Sam Sunderland, (GBR), KTM, 3:44:33
2. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:47:56 +3:23
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:50:27 +5:54
4. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda, 3:51:40 +7:07
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:56:11 +11:38
8. Daniel Nosiglia (BOL), KTM, 4:16:55 +32:32
9. Martin Duplessis (ARG), KTM, 4:20:15 +35:42
10. Walter Nosiglia (BOL), KTM, 4:29:24 +44:51
11. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:40:53 +56:20
12. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:41:45 +57:12