Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec were today able to confirm that the great difficulties of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally lie in the hugely-demanding navigation. In the first stage of the rally, the Team HRC duo posted top-five finishes.
Team HRC entered into the thick of things in the Afriquia Merzouga Rally, clocking up just over two hundred kilometres in a tough first stage. Today saw the first dosage of dunes in the Erg Chebbi and, more significantly, some demanding navigation during the 165 kilometres of special stage. The team’s two young hopefuls got the chance to put a lot of the accumulated theory into practice today.
Kevin Benavides set the best time yesterday in the short three-kilometre prologue and set out in today’s special from fifteen starting position hoping to make up time on the adversaries ahead. Nevertheless, the Argentine’s roadbook jammed up very early on and he was forced to move the sheet manually. This caused the rider to lose control of the bike on several occasions whilst riding the dunes with one hand. The result was a slight loss of time and an eventual fifth final position.
Ricky Brabec, third in yesterday’s prologue, who seemed at ease attacking the dunes aboard the Honda CRF450 RALLY, also ran into some trouble with the roadbook and had to settle for a fourth place on the day and the corresponding fourth position overall.
Tomorrow the riders can expect a second stage with two very different specials. The first part will feature 31 kilometres of dunes in Merzouga followed by a neutralization section. Next comes the second special stage, a speedier 150 km stretch – total of 341 kilometres on the day.
STAGE: 4TH PROVISIONAL: 4TH
Today was good. We started out in the dunes and we were there for a little bit. Around km 12 13 I got a bit confused with my choice of off-piste. Then I found Adrien and Kevin. I think I jumped in behind them, as Kevin was on the right course. I made a wrong choice and followed Kevin for a bit. From then on I just rode by myself all day. It was really tricky navigation. A lot of off-track. A lot of CAP reading. The middle of the stage was really fast, and the end there were a lot of big dunes and a lot of CAP reading which made it really difficult because the sun was so high. So, sometimes you looked and you couldn’t see the peaks of the dunes. That’s really dangerous. Kevin and I are well set for Tuesday’s stage, so hopefully we can do tomorrow the same thing that we did today and finish well. Learning is what we are out here for – seat time on the bike and learning tricky navigation.
STAGE: 5TH PROVISIONAL: 5TH
Early on in the race the roadbook blocked up and from kilometre two until the finish-line at 160 km I had to move it manually. It was really tough as there were a lot of notes together and I lost a lot of time passing from one to another. I fell a few times while trying to move the roadbook while I was in the dunes, but on the whole I’m quite happy to have finished four minutes off the leaders. It’s the first day, so there’s still a long way to go. This is race with a lot of navigation where we will learn a lot. I’m very happy with the team, with Roberto, Martino and with Ricky; I’m a very lucky fellow.
The riders have done a great job, as have the whole team, the staff and the mechanics. I’m pleased because the young riders have come here to learn the navigation. The team is growing and is improving step by step, and we are taking note of how the new structure is going, because Team HRC’s participation in the Merzouga is also an apprenticeship for us. We are happy because things are going in the right direction and also are grateful for the great support from Taichi Honda and all at HRC.
Results Stage 1
|1||SVITKO Stefan||SLO||Slovnaft Team||KTM||2:48’42|
|2||RODRIGUES Helder||POR||Yamaha Motor Europe||Yamaha||+2’04|
|3||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Yamaha Motor Europe||Yamaha||+4’18|
|4||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Team HRC||Honda||+4’20|
|5||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Team HRC||Honda||+4’46|
|6||FARRES Gerard||SPA||Himoinsa Team||KTM||+5’06|
|7||FARIA Ruben||POR||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+10’49|
|8||OTT-EULBERG Michael||GER||Team Ott-Eulberg||Speedbrain||+17’15|
|9||ENGEL Milan||CZE||Moto Racing Group||KTM||+18’45|
|10||NOSIGLIA Daniel||BOL||HT Husqvarna Rally Team||Husqvarna||+19’16|
|11||RODRIGUES Joaquim||POR||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||Hero||+23’32|
|12||THOMAS David||RSA||HT Husqvarna Rally Team||Husqvarna||+33’26|
|14||NOSIGLIA Walter||BOL||HT Husqvarna Rally Team||Husqvarna||+43’47|
|15||MEGRE David||POR||Team Megre Portugal||KTM||+45’09|
|16||PORTELA Luis||POR||Team Megre Portugal||KTM||+50’21|