SS3 Monster Honda: Benavides keeps options open in Abu Dhabi

Kevin Benavides © DR

Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides remains on the provisional podium of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after day three where he opened the track for much of the special stage.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, reached its halfway point today with the Monster Energy Honda Team still firmly in the battle.

In this third of five stages, riders came up against more varied sections of the Liwa Desert: a more technical section at the beginning with huge dunes, many of them cut, before moving on to another much swifter section. The front riders eventually bunched into a group of four who rode the remainder of the stage together.

Kevin Benavides, who started second today, was able to hunt down the rider who opened the course, managing to pull ahead of the field over several kilometres, before being reached by the other riders. Benavides eventually finished third and holds third position in the overall standings.

American Ricky Brabec decided to up the ante today and try to increase speed in spite of the dangerous cut dunes of the Liwa. Brabec posted fourth place, half a minute adrift of his team-mate, but ahead of Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves who had suffered a minor fall whilst taking a jump. The rider got stuck briefly in a dune, dropping some time in the process.

Also improving significantly in terms of speed and desert navigation reading were José Ignacio Cornejo and Michael Metge, sixth and seventh on the day. Both had a complication-free stage.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, sees the penultimate day of this Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Riders look forward to a 372.55 kilometre stage including 244.5 km against the clock.
Kevin Benavides #2 – STAGE: 3rd  OVERALL: 3rd : « I felt good. I went out to push hard and I was able to catch the rider who started first and then I had to open the track for quite some time. I felt very confident on the bike in this special desert. The bike has given zero problems. We have to keep on like this, pushing hard over the two remaining days of racing and see how things turn out in the end. »

Paulo Goncalves #4 – STAGE: 5th  OVERALL: 5th : « Another long stage full of dunes. I felt pretty good at the start, and pushed with a fast pace. I caught the rider in front of me and we rode very quick until I fell at a cut dune and then got stuck. I slightly damaged my shoulder and until the end I had to take it a bit easier. The objective is still to accumulate kilometres… and for the moment we are doing well. »
Ricky Brabec #11 – STAGE: 4th  OVERALL: 6th : « This third day was good. We got into the bigger dunes. It was very fast. I don’t like it so much at high speeds in this type of undulation and rolling dunes, where you can’t see what’s on the other side. My body is not tired yet and we are ready to face the next few days. »
Michael Metge #12 – STAGE: 7th  OVERALL: 9th : « Today the special was different. The start was more technical, with navigation in the dunes where you had to really grit your teeth and get into it. I had a good time. The bike went very well and in the second part, I was able to speed up in the dunes, some of them cut dunes, where it is never easy to go fast. »

José Ignacio Cornejo #14 – STAGE: 6th  OVERALL: 7th : « It was an entertaining stage, more complicated at the beginning and faster in the final part. I was able to set quite a good pace. There was less and less difference with those up in front. I felt better. Now I’m reading the desert with greater confidence and hope to improve in the forthcoming days. »

Stage 3 Results
1. Sunderland Sam (GBR) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, 3:29’52
2. Walkner Matthias (AUT) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +6’03
3. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +9’01
4. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team,    +9’35
5. Goncalves Paulo (POR) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +9’54
6. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +11’29
7. Metge Michael (FRA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +11’36
8. Quintanilla Pablo (CHI) – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team,    +12’02
9. Giemza Maciej (POL) – KTM Orlen Rally Team, +28’40
10. McBride David (GBR) – Vendetta Racing UAE, +35’38…

Provisional Standings after Stage 3
1. Sam Sunderland (ARE) / KTM 450, 10:35:19
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT) / KTM 450, 10:42:53
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) / Honda CRF 450, 10:45:07
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) / Husqvarna 450, 10:46:13
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR) / Honda CRF 450, 10:57:30
6. Ricky Brabec (USA) / Honda CRF 450, 10:57:56
7. Jose Ignacio Cornejo F (CHL) / Honda CRF 450, 11:08:31
8. Toby Price (AUS) / KTM 450, 11:14:02
9. Michael Metge (FRA) / Honda CRF 450, 11:14:56
10. David McBride (ARE), 12:19:19…

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