The riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team, Ricky Brabec, Michael Metge, Paulo Gonçalves and Joan Barreda kicked off proceedings at the Dakar Rally in style; all four occupying positions among the top height finishers.
The long awaited 39 kilometre special stage that gets the Dakar 2017 underway turned out to be a positive one for the Monster Energy Honda Team. The short stage against the clock let the riders get a feel for the race ahead and gave them the chance to let off a bit of pent up energy over Paraguayan soil.
After two days of administrative red tape at the headquarters of the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol and the Paraguayan Air Force base, the bikers finally got to sound the engines in the parc fermé and head up to the capital where the first timed section had been scheduled. In spite of showers over the past few days riders even got to raise a bit of dust, all of which the team took in their stride.
American Ricky Brabec, on the CRF450 Rally, got the show on the road for the Monster Energy Honda Team setting a rapid pace that saw him get to the finish-line and momentarily hold the the fastest time. Subsequently, both Joan Pedrero and Xavier deSoultrait, the first race leader, posted marginally quicker times before being sanctioned with 1 minute by speeding in a section of radar. Brabec is 12 seconds behind the Catalan rider.
Michael Metge too was looking comfortable and rode a lively, trouble-free special to snatch the second step of the rostrum some 16 seconds adrift of the overall leader before a penalty in a radar section. Metge dropped to eight place. Teammate Paulo Gonçalves, not wanting to miss out on the fun, finished the third fastest Honda rider, with a second spot on the day after the Metge’s penalty. Meanwhile, Spaniard Joan Barreda had a good start after setting off from tenth starting position, rounding off the day with a fifth position after getting held up briefly in a ford.
Riders thus get to leave a sweltering Asunción behind, where the heat and humidity have been unbearable, bound for Resistencia, Argentina, where the rally bivouac is set up and where tomorrow’s second stage starts from.
TOMORROW’ STAGE – Tuesday, January 3
Stage 2 – RESISTENCIA – SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUM