IQUIQUE (CHILE): South Racing’s Bolivian driver Rodrigo Gutiérrez and Croatian navigator Tomislav Glavic missed out on a podium finish after crashing heavily on the fourth stage of Chile’s demanding Atacama Cross-Country Rally, a round of the South American Cross-Country Rally Championship.
Gutiérrez was in the top three from the start in Copiapó and held second overall until he broke the rear differential 48km from the finish of the stage between Tocopilla and Los Verdes and then rolled 20km from the end. The eventual victory fell to Antonio Hasbun in a time of 20hrs 24min 33sec.
“Rodrigo started strongly and was in a good position to consolidate his lead in the CODASUR Cross-Country Championship, but his accident on the penultimate stage leaves us with some work to do,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “He will now be racing at Desafio Ruta 40 with a different vehicle and then he will use his Toyota for Baja Inca in Peru in the middle of September before hopefully going on to continue his fight for the championship in Bolivia in October.”
Action got underway with a 14km Prologue stage through the notorious Copiapó sand dunes on Sunday, August 13th. Hasbun claimed the early bragging rights, as Gutiérrez slotted into third place, 6min 59sec behind the overnight leader.
The real meat of the action unfolded with a selective section of 226.18km that looped through the Copiapó dunes on Monday, August 14th. The cars were placed in the running order behind the motorcycles and quads taking part in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Cup and the Bolivian found himself running 28th on the road. He recorded the second quickest time to move up to second in the overall classification behind Hasbun.
The second stage of 308km wound its way from Copiapó to Cifuncho and on to the rest halt in Tal Tal. Hasbun again won the special that was shortened after an accident involving motorcycle rider Pierre Alexander Renet, but Gutiérrez strengthened his grip on second place with the second fastest time of 2hr 01min 28sec to move over two and a half hours in front of third-placed Jorge Latrach.
Leg three offered a competitive section of 349km between the Pacific coastal towns of Tal Tal and Mejillones. The traditional coastal fog (camanchaca) again delayed proceedings on a special that was used, in part, on the 2015 Dakar Rally and that had been damaged by recent heavy rains. Emiliano Spataro won the day’s stage – which finished in La Negre - in a time of 3hr 39min 26sec, but the third quickest time enabled Gutiérrez to maintain second overall.
The fourth leg of 5476km on Thursday, August 17 was also the longest in terms of competitive distance with a stage of 375km between Mejillones and Iquique in the north of the country. Gutiérrez suffered broken transmission 48km from the end of the special - which started in Tocopilla and finished with the towering dune descent of Los Verdes - and then rolled 28km further on and was handed 5hrs 20mins of additional time penalties to exacerbate his problems. The subsequent time loss pushed the Bolivian behind Hasbun and Latrach and into third place.
The final day included a shorter stage of 158.27km that looped around the Iquique bivouac and finished at Playa Lobito just 20.66km away from the service park after a second pass down the giant Los Verdes sand dune. Damage to the car meant that the Bolivian did not start the final section, as Hasbun snatched victory from Spataro.
2017 Atacama Cross-Country Rally – final positions:
1. Antonio Hasbun (CHL)/Bryan Garvey (CHL) DB62 SPCNS 20hrs 24min 33sec
2. Jorge Latrach (CHL)/Juan-Pablo Latrach (CHL) Toyota Tundra 23hrs 42min 33sec
3. Emiliano Spataro (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (ARG) Renault Duster 56hrs 46min 58sec
DNF. Rodrigo Gutierrez (BOL)/Tomislav Glavic (CRO) South Racing Toyota Hilux