Monster Energy Honda Team's Paulo Gonçalves has taken the win at the 2017 Baja Inka Rally in Peru. Yamaha's Adrien Van Beveren took second with Kevin Benavides claimed the remaining podium position.
Clocking up over 1000 kilometres of Peruvian desert during the four days of racing, the teams had to deal with 800 kilometres of timed special stage.
The Honda Team have accomplished their mission planned for the Baja Inka Paracas 1000. Not only did the team come away with a fine result in the race itself, but performed notably when faced with the arduous navigation that was required in the Peruvian dunes.
Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves clinched the victory at the Baja Inka Paracas 1000, while Argentinean team-mate Kevin Benavides occupied third overall place in the rally. Michael Metge finished further behind in the general rankings.
"In this race, the priority was to get used to the desert here in Peru," told Gonçalves. "To get some mileage under the belt and have a good rally. It all turned out pretty well, I felt very comfortable throughout the race, and I always had options to win the rally. It has been a tough test in terms of riding, with 800 kilometres of timed stages and with more than 700 km of dunes.
"The Honda CRF450 RALLY performed extremely well. The result came too, so we are happy about that, although we still have to continue working for the future."
Claiming third, Kevin Benavides had a tough rally, often first out into the stage, but enjoyed himself and was very pleased with his result.
"It was a very good race," told Benavides. "I think I have opened more than 50% or 60% of the rally and that was very positive for me. The last stage I had to open and I set a fast pace. We have met the objectives for this race, which was to get some kilometres done and get a feel for the dunes of Peru. We know what it’s all about and I am also very happy about Paulo’s great win."
Taking their battle for overall victory right to the line, the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team saw Adrien Van Beveren secure a very close runner-up result, finishing just 20 seconds behind the eventual event winner.
Entering the fourth and final stage of the Baja Inka focused on the top step of the podium, Van Beveren suffered a small navigational mistake, which saw the Frenchman settle for second on stage four and also second in the event's final standings. Wrapping up his 2017 international rally racing season with a positive outcome, the Frenchman is now eager to enter the final part of his preparation for the Dakar.
"It was a good day for me. I had my mind totally focused on getting the overall win and pushed really hard to make it happen," told Van Beveren. "A small mistake in the special stage saw me ride an extra 800 metres to find the correct route and I think that must have cost me almost 40 seconds. Without that mistake, the overall win would be ours. As an athlete, I might always be pushing for the win, but a closer look at my performance here in Peru shows that we've made some big progress.
"My speed is good now and I can also navigate the hardest off-piste and dunes tracks. I'm really happy we decided to come here in Peru and race this event. As a team, we learned a lot and as for me personally I now have some extra motivation to get back home and continue the hard work for the coming Dakar."
Unquestionably the most consistent rider in this year's Baja Inka rally, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team's Xavier de Soultrait finished third in all four stages of the event outside Paracas. Securing fourth in the event's final standings, the WR450F Rally powered rider demonstrated he is on top of his rally racing game at the moment.
"I'm happy with my performance this weekend in Peru," claimed de Soultrait. "I finished all four stages inside the top three to finally get fourth in the event's final standings. For me this rally has been another important step towards our main goal, the Dakar Rally 2018. My results during the season have been showing that my speed is good and I can navigate without making mistakes. What I mostly take out of the Baja Inka is the fact that I got to open the tracks in the dunes for a big part of the last stages.
"It was good to discover this totally new terrain and learn how to tackle the massive dunes. I'm heading back to France now and after a short break I'm going to start my physical preparation for the Dakar. I'm also planning to race selected enduro events to better prepare my body and mind."
Joining the team for the first time this season, Rodney Faggotter was faced with a mountain to climb after suffering a hand injury on stage two. Battling through pain, the highly-experienced Aussie racer managed to reach the finish of the 2017 Baja Inka inside the top 10 in the event's final standings.
Baja Inka 2017 - Final Overall Classification
1. Paulo Gonçalves (POR), Honda, 09:54:43
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 09:55:03
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 09:57:17
4. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, 09:57:29
5. Daniel Nosiglia (BOL), KTM, 10:21:50
6. Jonathan Barragan (ESP), Gas Gas, 10:29:27