Team HRC’s Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides snatched a noteworthy victory today in the third stage of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally, first part of Marathon stage that was finished at the Atlas mountains, in high altitude.
Kevin Benavides triumphed today in the marathon stage which was fought out between Merzouga and the bivouac situated in the Atlas region at some 1600 metres above sea level.
The Argentine set off like a bat out of hell aboard the Honda CRF450 RALLY and finished the special stage in first position. As a consequence, Benavides rockets to the third place of the overall with two stages still left to run.
Today turned out to be a veritable marathon stage. With 223 kilometres of special plus a lengthy liaison section, the competitors put in a total of 460 kilometres by the time the day was done. It was a tough day on which race authorities reduced the special, initially to CP3 (km 182) and later to (km 127) citing safety issues. Various riders crashed while the temperature soared to around 40 degrees and if that wasn’t enough, a sand storm blew up causing difficulties for the helicopters. For this reason the organisation decided to pull the plug and use the CP2 times at the refuelling point as the final finishing times.
Kevin’s fine result accompanied the seventh place of American rider Ricky Brabec, who found out today just how harsh the Merzouga navigation can be. He saw various minutes slip through his fingers due to an error interpreting the roadbook. In contrast to his adversaries, Brabec made it back to the bivouac after a crash-free ride with the bike in tip-top shape.
Tomorrow sees the second day of the marathon stage on day four. There will be a total of 311 kilometres to compete. The day’s special will include 204 km of timed special stage.
Ricky Brabec – STAGE: 7th PROVISIONAL: 6th
« The special went well but the navigation was really difficult. We had a lot of trouble finding the waypoints. We were in sand dunes all day going back and forth, back and forth. I made a few mistakes and that cost me a bit of time. A lot of stones, rocks and sand It wasn’t an easy stage. This desert is really tough. Who knows what will happen over the next few days, but we are achieving what we set out to do which is to gain experience and learn. We will carry on in the same way. »
Kevin Benavides – STAGE: 1st PROVISIONAL: 3rd
I’m really happy to have won the third stage. It was really tough, a very complicated course and difficult navigation. I tried to stay focussed on doing the job well and not making any mistakes. It went well and I caught up with the other riders ahead; I was able to overtake them in spite of all the dust that they were producing and I finished first. We will continue working to finish the rally well.
Roberto Boasso – Team Manager : « I’m very pleased because the riders have done a great job. They listened carefully to all the advice on how to navigate well in this hard and dangerous special stage. Kenny went very quickly without any mistakes, winning the special and taking the leadership too. We are going step by step in the right direction. We are happy with this result and it has really made our day. Tomorrow, the second part of the marathon stage will be difficult but we will be very careful with the details. The team is working really hard to achieve the desired results. »
1. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Team HRC, 3:24’05
2. Rodrigues Helder – POR – Yamaha Motor Europe, +3’29
3. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Team, +6’42
4. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Yamaha Motor Europe, +9’59
5. Farres Gerard – SPA – Himoinsa Team, +12’39
6. Cornejo José – CHI – XRaids, +20’41
7. Brabec Ricky – USA – Team HRC, +33’47
8. Thomas David – RSA – HT Husqvarna Rally Team, +47’12
9. Reis Gonçalo – POR – Team Sol Posto, +47’40
10. Nosiglia Daniel – BOL – HT Husqvarna Rally Team, +50’44
11. Rodrigues Joaquim – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +57’20
12. Megre David – POR – Team Megre Portugal, +8:35’55…
Provisional standings after Stage 3
1. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Team, 11:16’12
2. Rodrigues Helder – POR – Yamaha Motor Europe, +1’37
3. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Team HRC, +3’43
4. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Yamaha Motor Europe, +7’08
5. Farres Gerard – SPA – Himoinsa Team, +9’34
6. Brabec Ricky – USA – Team HRC, +40’51
7. Cornejo José – CHI – XRaids, +1:03’19
8. Nosiglia Daniel – BOL – HT Husqvarna Rally Team, +1:19’37
9. Rodrigues Joaquim – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +2:09’18
10. Reis Gonçalo – POR – Team Sol Posto, +2:18’09…