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Joan Barreda a mere step away from conquering China

Just a short special stage of less than two kilometres in Zuo Qi separates Joan Barreda from overall victory in the China Grand Rally. The Spaniard has scored a full house of stage wins and sports a huge advantage over the nearest rival. Michael Metge finished second on the day.

The eighth and penultimate stage of the China Grand Rally bore witness to another Joan Barreda and Honda CRF450 RALLY master class. The Team HRC ace scorched over the 70 kilometre route to Ling Wu, leading from pole to flag. 

It was a short run, but far from easy. The course required some tough navigation in the dunes in the first part of the day. The latter stretches were crowded with spectators and vehicles on the track, making a complicated ride for the competitors.

Joan’s win over teammate Michael Metge leaves the Spaniard poised to snatch overall victory in his maiden China Grand Rally adventure. 

A triumph tomorrow will wrap up a rally which has seen Barreda clinch victory in every stage. It will also mark his third rally win on the spin, after taking top honours in the Baja Aragón and the Vegas to Reno Race. Zuo Qi will host the 1.5 kilometre special tomorrow.

Frenchman Metge continues to lie in third spot after having whittled four more minutes off the second place rider.

Stage 6

Team HRC weather a complicated stage to win in China

Joan Barreda and Michael Metge have managed to clinch first and second spot in a highly-treacherous China Grand Rally seventh stage. A thick layer of dust masked hidden dangers in the tracks carved out on a previous stage.

Once again, Team HRC proved that for speed, they are unmatchable in the China Grand Rally. Joan Barreda remains unbeaten so far after seven stages and with just two left to run looks a safe bet for overall victory. 

Today’s stage, however, was an onerous task as competitors were faced with heavy fesh-fesh covering much of the route, hiding innumerable dangers. 

The route back-tracked over long swathes of track used in the previous stage. The dense dust produced by the vehicles concealed rocks and other hazards which posed a constant threat as the riders retraced their paths – although this time in the opposite direction. A day for maximum caution.

Hot on the heels of Joan Barreda was teammate Michael Metge, who by now had resolved his brake issues and was able to complete the special stage at full pace. The Frenchman overtook Armand Monleón, who set off ahead and clawed back 2’13” although Metge continues to hold third place.

The eighth stage to be held tomorrow, Sunday, will arrive in Ling Wu after 277.28 kilometres of special stage plus two long 300 kilometre liaison sections.

 

Stage 6

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Joan Barreda continues unbeaten run of form in the China Grand Rally...

Team HRC rider Joan Barreda finished the sixth stage with the quickest time to take the stage win in the China Grand Rally. This marks the fifth triumph for the Honda CRF450 after the cancellation of yesterday’s stage.

The Spanish rider remains well on course for an overall victory in his first participation in the Chinese event. 

Today saw a somewhat different stage, with the race being fought out on track, rather the than the dunes of recent stages. 

The 179 kilometre special was, however, booby-trapped with plenty of dangerous hazards as the route encountered sudden bends, huge rocks and drops. Barreda, nevertheless, commanded from start to finish and leaves his adversaries trailing yet further in the overall standings.

French teammate Michael Metge ran into some difficulties between Zhangye and LingWu during the final two-thirds of the 465.36 kilometre timed stage. Mika lost the use of the back brake which had been hit by a rock. After having regained momentum in the two previous stages, the Team HRC man dropped four minutes to the second place rival.

Tomorrow, the seventh stage of the China Grand Rally will be held between Zhangye and LingWu, with a total of 465.36 kilometres; 156 of which will be against the clock.

Stage 5 - Cancelled

Stage 4

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Stage 4

The Honda duo of Barreda and Metge rule the roost in the Gobi Desert…

Joan Barreda is turning out to be the prime mover in the China Grand Rally after snatching a fourth consecutive victory to extend his lead in the general standings. Teammate Michael Metge was once again second.

Another stage and another one-two for Team HRC as the fourth stage of the China Grand Rally unfolds deep in the Gobi Desert. 

Today’s special stage – at just over 200 kilometres – was a visually stunning sight where the riders got to enjoy a dune-filled final section.

Spaniard Joan Barreda rode the Honda CRF450 RALLY hard to clinch a fourth consecutive triumph that consolidates his place at the top of the overall leaderboard with a 48-minute surplus over the nearest second place competitor.

Team HRC brother-in-arms, Frenchman Michael Metge, was hot on the heels of the race leader and took runner-up spot on the day and looks ever more at ease on the CRF450 RALLY. Metge clawed back a further eight minutes from the second-placed rider in the general rankings.

The fifth stage will be held tomorrow, Thursday, which will include the rally’s longest special stage scheduled at 304 kilometres against the clock. Shazao Haizi, as authorities have christened the stage, will be battled out over the same terrain as today’s stage.

Stage 3

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Stage 3

Barreda even further ahead after third stage China Grand Rally win.

Joan Barreda took victory on a trouble-free third day of the China Grand Rally as the Team HRC duo pulled off another one-two. The stage had been shortened from the previously scheduled version.

Today’s stage played out over rocky terrain and fast tracks at the foot of the immense Gobi Desert. Riders also had to tackle sandy sections with some fairly taxing navigation. On the day the 351 kilometre route had been reduced in length. Before making it back to the bivouac in YouQi competitors had clocked up some 761 kilometres. The rally’s main course will be served up over the next few stages as the race takes to the Gobi Desert.

Joan Barreda once again notched up the fastest time after heading out in first place where he remained until halfway through the special stage. The Team HRC man opened the track for the first hour and a half of the timed section, navigating the Honda CRF450 RALLY impeccably. This makes it three out of three thus far in the China Grand Rally. Barreda now stands six minutes clear of the second-placed rider in the general standings.

Team HRC sidekick, Frenchman Michael Metge, was able to navigate with ease again today after the instruments had been fixed up. Metge finished three minutes adrift of Barreda and clawed back three minutes from the second place rider in the overall rankings.

Tomorrow’s 304 kilometre stage will feature a heavy dosage of dunes in which competitors will have to have their wits about them as they navigate in search of the strategically placed waypoints.

 

Stage 2

Joan Barreda wins the second stage of the China Grand Rally and strengthens his leadership

Team HRC’s Joan Barreda was the quickest in the second stage of the China Grand Rally, although the day was not without setbacks. The Spaniard further bolsters his position at the top of the leaderboard.

Joan Barreda once again proved to be the main protagonist at the China Grand Rally with a 3:22’59 time over the 241.79 kilometre special stage. The competitors have now moved on to the bivouac in Wulate Houqi.

The day turned out to be a positive one for Barreda, who increases the deficit over his second place adversary, although there were hitches on the way. Some glitches on the instrument panel saw Barreda forced to swap his TRIP navigational device for that of teammate Michael Metge’s.

Metge, now without his TRIP, was forced to embark on the special stage equipped with just the GPS and roadbook. 

Barely had the special began when the GPS stopped working. Nevertheless, Metge followed the tracks left by this teammate up ahead, but suffered a mishap on one of the dunes and damaged the front wheel of the Honda CRF450 RALLY. 

The Frenchman was able to battle on to the refuelling but was so focused on repairing the damaged wheel that he failed to completely refuel the bike. The machine subsequently ran out of fuel a few kilometres short of the finish. The rider finally made it back to base, but with a lengthy delay. Metge now lies in third place overall.

Overall Standings (After Stage 2)

1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 5:03:54

2. Armand Monleon (KTM) +29:51

3. Michael Metge (Honda) +1:16:16

 

Stage 1

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Joan Barreda has laid down the gauntlet in the China Grand Rally by becoming the early leader as the race kicked off in Bao Tou, Inner Mongolia. 

The Spanish Team HRC rider – on his maiden outing in the Chinese Rally – was accompanied by teammate Michael Metge, who posted runner-up spot.

The third edition of the nine-day rally takes place in the northern provinces of China and kicked off in the city of Baotou in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

It was a dream start for the Team HRC duo in the China Grand Rally, with the pair dominating the first 81.20 kilometre stage without any real threats. 

Barreda and Metge made short work of the sand and dunes of the Chinese desert. 

“I tried to take it easy over the early part of the race, paying attention to the roadbook and the hazards marked out in it,” told Barreda. “As I did more kilometres I started to push harder as I was enjoying myself and also because I had Mika very close and I wanted to have a good time.”

Joan Barreda, chalking up a time of 1 hour 22 minutes and 55 seconds, marked the fasted time of the day some 49 seconds ahead of Team HRC partner Michael Metge. 

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“I really liked the first stage,” said Metge. “I didn’t expect to find the first dunes quite so soon after we had got off a dusty dirt track. There was a bit of vegetation too. 

“We had a lot of fun in the dunes which were pretty big ones. The temperature was great but the dunes were a bit soft. We had to take it really carefully.”

The third place rider, Armand Monleon, came home some eleven minutes adrift of the day’s winner.

Stage 2 will feature a timed special stage of 241.79 kilometres as part of a total 446.75 kilometre stint from the bivouac in Bao Tou to that of Wulate Houqi.

Competitors can look forward to sand and loose gravel as well as the great Mongolian dunes and their high level of navigation demands. The riders will have to tackle almost four thousand kilometres including 1,650 km against the clock and more than 2,300 kilometres of liaison sections. The longest special stage of the event will be the 304 kilometre fifth stage. The race concludes in Zuo Qi on October 3.

Photos: HRC

China Grand Rally - Stage 1

1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 1:22:55

2. Michael Metge (Honda) +0:49

3. Armand Monleon (KTM) +11:02