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Kevin Benavides at FIM Rally in Abu Dhabi, UAE
NEWS

Benavides up to the task in rapid start to FIM Rallies series

Apr 012018

The first major ‘dune’ of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship has been successfully traversed by the Monster Energy Honda team with Dakar star Kevin Benavides walking the third step of the podium in the five round series in Abu Dhabi. All five of the CRF450 Rally equipped riders in the HRC set-up reached the finish line just south of Mussafah and classified within the top nine.

The ’18 FIM contest spreads across UAE (Qatar), South America (Chile & Argentina) and Morocco and to the month of October, and Honda have their sights on reigning champion and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Pablo Quintanilla.

Abu Dhabi consisted of five days of fast, dusty and dune-littered stages. The pace was hot from the outset and while Dakar podiumee Benavides was able to give chase, various other members of the HRC troupe enacted their own race strategies. Paulo Gonçalves was satisfied with his fifth position in what was a first competitive outing since his pre-Dakar injury. Others, such as Ricky Brabec (sixth), kept the long game of the Rally season firmly in mind. “This is quite a dangerous rally with the undulation of the dunes and major cuts,” the American said. “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.”

 

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge took the racers through more than 1000km of dunes and across the heart of the Liwa desert. Navigation might not have been such a pivotal aspect of the rally compared to say the epic scale of the Dakar (a typical stage of the South American behemoth will clock around double of the Abu Dhabi 200-300km specials) but the sandy terrain presented its own adversity both on man and machine.

Benavides was the lead ‘red’ in the Middle East on this occasion and totalled 19 points compared to victor Quintanilla on 30 and second-placed Sam Sunderland on 24. “I'm happy because I think the speed and pace I had in the race were very good,” the Argentina said. “The sensations aboard the bike were very good too and that leaves me 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.”

 

HRC are set to miss out on the second round in Qatar but will instead attempt the non-championship event in Merzouga Rally in Morocco in April. The high-profile race should see Joan Barreda back in the saddle after recovery from wrist surgery.

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