The Monster Energy Honda Team leave the 2018 Merzouga Rally on a high with a one-two overall finish, a strong team performance and confidence in the CRF450 Rally machine's reliability.
In their first rally with a near full team present in 2018, the results at Merzouga were strong for the HRC riders: first and second places overall for Joan Barreda and Kevin Benevides, with Barreda returning from injury with an impressive win.
The factory Honda team also hailing it a success for the reliability of their CRF450 Rally machines which held strong for all five riders across 1500kms racing.
After starting the 2018 season in the United Arab Emirates with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – the first race of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – the Monster Energy Honda Team chalked up mileage and further experience of sand and navigation in the deserts of the Merzouga Rally.
“Obviously, the team is very satisfied with the way the participation in this Merzouga Rally went.” Says Honda rally team manager, Raul Castells. “The decision to race in Morocco has been confirmed as a success, given that many of the rivals in the competition are those who also fight to win the Dakar Rally.”
Castells continued: “In this race, navigation was one of the key aspects; it was very challenging and our riders clearly made the most of it to improve their navigation reading skills, with high-level riding throughout on a par with the standards of the Dakar.”
“Joan Barreda and Kevin Benavides were outstanding and we hope that they continue at this level for the rest of the season. Likewise, we hope that the rest of the team will also continue to improve on their bikes.”
“The Honda CRF450 RALLY has not given the slightest hitch over the 1500-kilometre race, which is a great endorsement for its mechanical strength.”
The team appeared with the full line-up of riders, Argentine Kevin Benavides, Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves, American Ricky Brabec and Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo. Also back in the battle, after two months out after an operation for a double left wrist fracture, was Spaniard Joan Barreda.
For the Honda Team the results looked as good as it gets: a win in the prologue and then four wins out of five special stages. The squad commanded throughout the 900 kilometres of timed sections, with Joan Barreda and Kevin Benavides occupying the top two final overall positions.
Other members of the team, likewise turned out fine performances, such as Ricky Brabec, who set a fast pace to finish fifth in the general rankings, with two stage podium places. José Ignacio Cornejo was eighth and continues to progress within the team structure and Paulo Gonçalves, twelfth, goes on clocking up more mileage on the Honda CRF450 RALLY and is almost back to full fitness after the injuries that kept him out of the Dakar 2018.
The Honda team will continue with the planned work schedule for the 2018 season with some private testing and subsequently the participation in the Atacama Rally, the third round of the world championship to be held in Chile from 12th to 18th August in Copiapó in the northern region of the country.
Photo Credit: Honda Rally Team
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org