Team HRC’s Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides has sealed overall victory in the Afriquia Merzouga Rally, which closed today in the dunes of Merzouga. Benavides kept the field in check after the motocross-style start, crossing the finishing-line in second place. Brabec posted sixth on the day as well as sixth in the general rankings.
It was the first race as part of the official HRC team and a first win too. The budding young Argentinean shone throughout the whole week and stormed to an overall triumph in the Afriquia Merzouga Rally. The back of the victory had been broken in the dunes of Morocco’s Erg Chebbi.
Benavides had placed himself in a virtually unbeatable position yesterday ahead of today’s final stage which got underway with a motocross-like start in the Lago Yasmina Erg Chebbi area. The wins in stages three and four consolidated the Argentine’s domination of the event and paved the way for today’s celebrations in the Team HRC camp.
This is the second time Team HRC have clinched the Merzouga Rally title. In 2013 it was Briton Sam Sunderland who took the Honda CRF450 RALLY to the top step of the rostrum.
Benavides’ Team HRC companion Ricky Brabec (U.S.A) wound up in sixth place overall, improving daily with such a steep learning curve of tough navigation. The apprenticeship in navigation has been the rider’s main goal over the course of the five-day rally.
The next outing for Team HRC will be the third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the Sardegna Rally Race. Kevin Benavides once again participates, this time under the auspices of Team RS Moto.
Kevin Benavides – STAGE: 2nd FINAL POSITION: 1st
« I’m really super-happy about my first race for Team HRC and to win has been something fantastic. I think that I had a great rally in spite of having a minor problem with the roadbook on the first day and the five-minute penalty that I picked up on the second. But the third day was a spectacular one and yesterday was the decisive stage. I was happy because I opened up a gap which allowed me to set off today in a more conservative way, with a good pace, but without going mad. I’m really pleased to have brought the team victory. I’m very happy to have started with a win and for the great team-work with Ricky. Also, it’s great to give Roberto Boasso his first win, because we both began with Team HRC at the same time. I shouldn’t forget about my mechanic Germán Olivares either, who looked after the bike or Martino Bianchi and Mariano Casaroli from Honda Argentina. Many thanks to all of you. »
Ricky Brabec – STAGE: 6th FINAL POSITION: 6th
« Today was the last day with a motocross or grand prix-style start. I rode well today; I got passed in the end by two people but I think the race was over for me yesterday as I was so far back in time. So, today was just to get through to the finish and get another rally finished. This is my fourth rally finish and I’m healthy. I’m excited as this is my second time with Honda when they have won. Winning is always great and it is good for Honda. I think that we have a strong team for Dakar so we’ll keep attacking for the whole year and be back for the Dakar 2017 and on the podium. »
Roberto Boasso – Team Manager : « I’m really so happy about Kevin’s win which has given victory to Honda. It’s great for Team HRC, Japan, Spain, the mechanics and also the people from HRC who were able to give us the spare parts sooner than we expected. Kevin has proved himself to be a very mature and cool-headed rider. He was able to put the penalization behind him and came back winning and that shows what a great competitor he is. I would like to thank Ricky Brabec for the great work that he has done during the race and also everyone at Honda for believing in us. This is just the beginning and we won’t have time to relax because there is a lot of work still to be done. Thanks to all of you. »
Results Stage 5
1. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Yamaha Motor Europe – Yamaha, 1:21’31
2. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Team HRC – Honda, +1’39
3. Svitko Stefan – SLO Slovnaft Team – KTM, +2’06
4. Reis Gonçalo – POR – Team Sol Posto – KTM, +2’42
5. Rodrigues Joaquim – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally – Hero, +2’43
6. Brabec Ricky – USA – Team HRC – Honda, +2’46
7. Rodrigues Joaquim – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally – Hero, +5’26
8. Farres Gerard – SPA – Himoinsa Team – KTM, +5’27
9. Cornejo José – CHI – XRaids – KTM, +5’28
10. Oliveira Pedro – POR – CRN Competition – Yamaha, +5’31…
Final Standings Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2016
1. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Team HRC – Honda 15:02’40
2. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Team – KTM, +3’32
3. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Yamaha Motor Europe – Yamaha, +9’57
4. Farres Gerard – SPA – Himoinsa Team – KTM, +15’57
5. Rodrigues Helder – POR – Yamaha Motor Europe – Yamaha, +16’40
6. Brabec Ricky – USA – Team HRC – Honda, +52’03
7. Cornejo José – CHI – XRaids – KTM, +1:19’35
8. Nosiglia Daniel – BOL – HT Husqvarna Rally Team – Husqvarna, +2:14’34
9. Rodrigues Joaquim – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally – Hero, +2:46’28
10. Reis Gonçalo – POR – Team Sol Posto – KTM, +3:02’59…