Team HRC, current Dakar leader, poised for the second week of racing
The Honda factory team – Team HRC – arrive at the rest day of the Rally Dakar 2016 flying high, with Paulo Goncalves in command at the top of the general standings, ahead of the decisive second week showdown.
The sunlight in Salta on the Dakar’s day-off is somewhat deceiving given the rotten meteorological conditions that have blighted the first week. Heavy storms and torrential rain severely hampered the race organizer’s plans, who had hoped for a more trouble-free first week without the inclement weather, which led to cancellations and changes. As far as everything else went, it was business as usual in a week of full-tilt special stages, fairly painless navigation and headache-inducing Bolivian altitudes putting a damper on rider performances.
Team HRC come away from the first week in good standing with their riders well-placed in the overall standings, especially Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves, who lies in first place overall. Gonçalves has so far clinched one stage victory, a runner-up position and two third-place finishes before yesterday’s arrival in Salta. Paulo will be looking to maintain the kind of consistency and effort that have earned him the current top-spot, as the second week assault gets underway tomorrow, with the final race destination in Rosario, Argentina next weekend.
American Ricky Brabec, on his Rally Dakar debut has shone on various stages and has been hobnobbing with rally raid’s elites in various top-ten finishes. The rest day sees him currently occupying twelfth place with distinct possibilities of improving on that position over the coming stages.
Also rubbing shoulders with the big-guns in most of the special stages has been Frenchman Michael Metge, although a penalty picked up in the sixth stage drops him several positions in the overall standings. Italian Paolo Ceci gets an honours distinction for his mission of team support over the first week.
Joan Barreda’s Dakar 2016 participation came to an end following an accident in stage six, when the Spaniard took a heavy blow to the left hand. Barreda was being towed back to the bivouac by team-mate Paolo Ceci, after a breakdown earlier in the day, when the crash and subsequent injury occured, ruling him out of a stage seven start.
Excellent participation by Honda South America Rally Team’s Kevin Benavides on the Argentinean’s maiden Dakar. The rider, who hails from Salta, marked a new milestone in Argentinean motorcycling history by winning the third stage. His supercharged performances have allowed him to hold sixth place overall as the race reaches its halfway stage. Frenchman Adrien Metge, of HSA Rally Team, has turned in a more-than-satisfactory result for the team and is placed among the first twenty.