Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides has managed to finish round one of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship on the rostrum. The Argentinean took third place overall in the rally. Nacho Cornejo clinched the Junior category title.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge wrapped up today with Monster Energy Honda Team present on the podium.
It was a hard-fought third place for Kevin Benavides, who battled right up until the final kilometre of the rally. Kevin finished hot on the heels of the stage’s eventual winner to secure his place on the final prize winners’ platform.
The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge got off to a hotly-disputed motocross-style start with the riders starting out in line. The strongest riders had soon bonded into a group over the opening stretches of the 218 kilometre special. The course gradually took to dusty tracks, obliging many competitors to slow the pace down to avoid accidents on very treacherous terrain.
Paulo Gonçalves finished the stage in sixth, moving up a position in the overall standings, just ahead of Ricky Brabec who had ridden alongside him for practically the whole special. Likewise Michael Metge, who posted eighth place on the day.
Cornejo wins in Junior
José Ignacio Cornejo suffered a fall during this final special as he followed other riders into the middle of a cloud of dust. Nevertheless, he finished the stage in the top ten and took eighth final position in the general rankings. Additionally, ‘Nacho’ scooped the prize for best junior in the competition.
It won’t be a long wait until the next appointment with Monster Energy Honda Team when the squad compete in the Merzouga Rally in Morocco from April 16-20. The team expects to include Joan Barreda back from injury after a wrist operation in February.
Kevin Benavides #2 – STAGE: 2nd FINAL: 3rd
« I’ve finished third in Abu Dhabi. I think it’s a good start to the championship. Today we had a motocross-type and over the final 60 kilometres we had a tough battle to decide the stage. I defended my third place very well. I’m happy because I think the speed and pace I had in the race were very good. The sensations aboard the bike were very good too and that leaves me very satisfied. It is the start of the championship, a lot is still to come, but we will work harder to continue improving and that will pay off with victories in the coming races. »
Paulo Goncalves #4 – STAGE: 6th FINAL: 5th
« Apart from the result, starting the World Championship with a fifth place wasn’t at all bad, especially if we take into account that I haven’t been on the bike for some time since the injury. The last race was back in Morocco. I knew that this would take its toll, but I did my best to try to overcome such a tough test. We have to keep working and in the next world championship competition I think we can do much better. With the bike there were no problems at all. Despite the harsh conditions here, the team has done a great job. »
Ricky Brabec #11 – STAGE: 7th FINAL: 6th
« We’re happy to arrive at Yas Marina circuit again after to have finished the first round of the world championship. Not such a good start to the series, this is quite a dangerous rally with the undulation of the dunes and major cuts. I’ve not made a mistake or dropped the bike once the whole time. So that’s a plus in my book. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. »
Michael Metge #12 – STAGE: 8th OVERALL: 9th
« Today we all started out together. Everyone against each other; There was some dust and it was a bit dangerous and I dropped a bit of time. We started attacking after refuelling and I was able to catch the group in front of me. I had a good feeling with the bike, which has been perfect every day. I have improved every day aboard it in the dunes and I hope to continue like this in the next race. »
José Ignacio Cornejo #14 – STAGE: 9th OVERALL: 8th – Junior WINNER
« We all started out together and then, when we got onto the track it became more difficult to follow because there was a lot of dust being raised. I fell – fortunately it was nothing, and I was able to continue. We finished the rally and we’ve had some good feelings over the race. Plus we’ve improved the speed, which was important too. »
Raul Castells – Monster Energy Honda Team Manager
« I want to congratulate Kevin on his third place in the general standings. It was a very difficult race, tough, and also dangerous because of the cut dunes and because the riders were so fast. I congratulate also the riders and the team. Everything went well and after this first race of the year, where we have settled as a team and we will continue working towards our final goal, which is the Dakar, race by race. The bikes, like the riders, have worked well and we are very satisfied with that too. »
Stage 5 results
1. Walkner Matthias (AUT) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, 2:46’40
2. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +0’0.5
3. Sunderland Sam (GBR) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +0’19
4. Price Toby (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +0’46
5. Quintanilla Pablo (CHI) – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, +1’25
6. Goncalves Paulo (POR) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +2’01
7. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +2’05
8. Metge Michael (FRA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +2’13
9. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +2’29
10. Giemza Maciej (POL) – KTM Orlen Rally Team, +8’27…
Final Standings Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2018
1. Quintanilla Pablo (CHI) – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, 16:51’11
2. Sunderland Sam (GBR) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +5’11
3. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +8’34
4. Walkner Matthias (AUT) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +9’36
5. Goncalves Paulo (POR) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +18’35
6. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +20’46
7. Price Toby (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +29’45
8. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +30’05
9. Metge Michael (FRA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +38’19
10. Melot Benjamin (FRA) – Duust Rally Team, +2:15’37…