Paulo Gonçalves and Benavides start in Abu Dhabi

Paulo Gonçalves © DR

Monster Energy Honda Team get the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship underway in Abu Dhabi with the Super Special at the Yas Marina Circuit.

A curtain-raiser of just over two kilometres of Super Special marked the opening of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at the Yas Marina Circuit this afternoon and decided the starting order for tomorrow’s first full stage.

The track proved to be a slippery, hazardous affair and given that the surface had caused a few falls and skids, many of the riders decided to take it easy and minimize risks.

Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves was the first of the Monster Energy Honda Team duo to cross the line, some 5.3 seconds behind the day’s winner Sam Sunderland.

Kevin Benavides came home tucked in behind with a marginally greater time, just eight seconds adrift of Sunderland in eighth place. The Argentinean rider is back in action after over three months out due to a right hand injury. The promising young rider will use the event to progressively get back into the swing of racing after the lengthy hiatus.

The first fifteen finishers will be able to choose the starting order for the first stage and, as is habitual, the first finishers are likely to choose to attack from the rear of the field tomorrow. The Honda CRF450 RALLY riders will start out from around the twentieth position.

Tomorrow, competitors get to tackle the first full stage which will take place entirely in the Liwa. On the agenda are 276.59 kilometres of timed special in a total stage of 418.96 km. The Qsar Al Sarab bivouac situated in the Liwa oasis will be home to the riders for the forthcoming days.

Paulo Goncalves – Prologue: 7th  +5.3
« We got the race in Abu Dhabi off to a start with a short prologue. It was very slippery and as it was like that I decided to take things very carefully. I finished in a position that allows me to choose the starting position tomorrow when the race really gets going. I will try and do my best and try and enjoy the race with the team. »
Kevin Benavides – Prologue: 8th  +8.0
« It was a very short prologue of just a couple of minutes. I didn’t feel good at all with the terrain. I was skidding about and, to be quite honest, I didn’t want to take any chances so soon after having had the operation. I hope to pick things up from now on and tomorrow we will start to pick up the pace in the desert and dispute the stages there. »
Super Special Stage (Prologue) Abu Dhabi 2017
1. Sunderland Sam – GBR – KTM Factory Racing Team, 1’47.5
2. Meo Antoine – FRA – KTM Factory Racing Team, +0.6
3. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, +1.1
4. Walkner Matthias – AUT – KTM Factory Racing Team, +2.7
5. Renet Pierre-Alexandre – FRA – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, +3.8
6. Stephens Lee – AUS, +5.2
7. Goncalves Paulo – POR – Monster Energy Honda Team, +5.3
8. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Monster Energy Honda Team, +8.0
9. Albalooshi Mohammed – UAE – Ride to Abu Dhabi Team, +13.2
10. Melot Benjamin – FRA – Duust Rally Team, +15

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