April brought with it the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, with the participation of the Monster Energy Honda Team, who begin a programme of preparation that will ultimately culminate in the Dakar 2018.
Monster Energy Honda Team were back in action as the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship got underway with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
The race held in the small, yet stunning, setting overlooking the Persian Gulf, allowed the team to show they are firing on all cylinders and capable of outclassing competitors.
Competition once again resumed after the break since the Dakar Rally 2017 with the Abu Dhabi race. This will be followed shortly by the second date in the world championship calendar – the Sealine Qatar.
This year’s edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge saw Monster Energy Honda Team line up Paulo Gonçalves and Kevin Benavides, who had their chances of winning considerably reduced after the opening day’s short Super Special prologue, which ending up heavily influencing the overall outcome of the race.
In the first stage, the two riders aboard the Honda CRF450 RALLYs took a while to get back into the swing of things, but managed top-ten finishes nevertheless. Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves improved considerably over the following days to hold first place in the overall standings on days two and four. Paulo finished the rally in fourth outright after a tightly-fought finale. Kevin Benavides, meanwhile, in a bid to overcome a hand injury picked up shortly before the Dakar 2017, started cautiously but was soon going from strength to strength. The Argentinean rider even managed to clinch a spectacular stage win. A problem on the third day put paid to any hopes of overall glory but Kevin continues to accumulate valuable points in the championship.
Next date for the Monster Energy Honda Team is the Sealine Qatar, from 19th to 22nd April, which will once again feature the Gonçalves and Benavides duo. The most recent participation of the Honda CRF450 RALLY riders in Qatar in 2015 finished with two podium places: Joan Barreda in second and Paulo Gonçalves third. In 2014 Joan Barreda took top honours.
Martino Bianchi – Monster Energy Honda General Manager : « It was a good practice in Abu Dhabi for the Monster Energy Honda Team in this first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. I’m happy to see Kevin back after the injury that he had last year before the Dakar. After three months out he’s not 100% back to full fitness but he has shown that he has improved day by day since the start of the race. Unfortunately, we had a little problem which we managed to resolve and he finally finished the race. As we already know, Paulo is a very consistent rider; he finished in fourth place and won a stage, as Kevin did too. He led the overall standings in the race for a couple of days. But with this kind of formula of five days of racing it was impossible to make it onto the podium, Paulo finished fourth overall, but proving to be very strong and consistent, just like the bikes and team did too. In just a week’s time we have the second race of the world championship in Qatar, again with the same format of team and riders Paulo and Kevin. Thank you all and keep on following Monster Energy Honda Team. »
Final Standings Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2017
1. Sunderland Sam – GBR – KTM Factory Racing Team, 18:14’32.5
2. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, +6’13.7
3. Walkner Matthias – AUT – KTM Factory Racing Team, +8’16.1
4. Goncalves Paulo – POR – Monster Energy Honda Team, +11’10.3
5. Renet Pierre-Alexandre – FRA – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, +14’50.8
6. Meo Antoine – FRA – KTM – Factory Racing Team, +1:09’00.6
7. Albalooshi Mohammed – UAE – Ride to Abu Dhabi Team, +1:30’34.2
8. Jaffar Mohammed – UAE, +2:56’48.0
9. Tomiczek Adam – POL KTM Orlen Rally Team, +2:59’10.3
10. McBride David – GBR – Vendetta Racing UAE, +3:06’06.1…
11. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Monster Energy Honda Team, +17:10’06…