The Afriquia Merzouga Rally finally kicked into gear this evening with a three-kilometre prologue held near the little village of Merzouga in the south eastern part Morocco. The Hero MotoSports Team Rally had a solid beginning with both riders placing inside the Top 1.
Rally rookie Joaquim Rodrigues powered his Speedbrain 450 to eighth place with a time of 3:31 minutes. India´s CS Santosh scored 15th position, 32 seconds behind prologue winner Kevin Benavides.
This lets both riders start tomorrow´s first stage inside the lead group. The recently formed team could have hardly asked for a better start.
« Today was a good day for me, » said Rodrigues, who hails from Portugal. « Earlier we had a practice lap and I actually did it twice. It was my first encounter with the roadbook. I was not super confident yet, but I learn a lot on these days. This is why we came here with the team. The prologue itself was okay, I followed the lines and stayed safe. I finished the day, tomorrow the real rally starts. »
« Today the feeling was good, » commented CS Santosh. « This morning we did the practice with two 30-kilometre roadbook sections. The bike is going good and everything is working well. The main focus in the prologue was to bring it back home and have a good position for tomorrow. That worked out fine. »
Managing Director Wolfgang Fischer expressed full satisfaction with the opening day: « The first day for Hero MotoSports Team Rally went pretty nice. We have seen the initial kilometres in the prologue and through the dunes. There is a good mood in the team and we´re growing together pretty fast. Now we´re looking forward to tomorrow and the first real desert stage. Joaquim Rodrigues is right in the middle of the starting order among the Top 15. CS Santosh will be the first rider out and open the track. He´ll enter the dunes without any tracks in front of him. That will be valuable for him and his navigation experience. »
Monday´s stage starts early for the riders at 7.00 am. The route is characterised by a 165-kilometre special test around the famous « Erg Chebbi » and through the « Grande Dune de Merzouga ». Four further days of racing follow from Tuesday to Friday.
Result Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2016, Prolog:
1. Kevin Benavides – ARG – Honda, 3:12 min
2. Adrien van Beveren – FRA – Yamaha, +0:01
3. Ricky Brabec – USA – Honda, +0:05
4. Ruben Faria – POR – Husqvarna, +0:08
5. Stefan Svitko – SVK – KTM +0:13
8. Joaquim Rodrigues – POR – Hero +0:19
15. CS Santosh – IND – Hero, +0:32