Kevin Benavides on course for an overall win in Merzouga Rally
Team HRC Argentinean Kevin Benavides scored an emphatic triumph in the fourth stage of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally – the second part of the marathon – that leaves him poised to seal overall victory tomorrow.
It was domination from start to finish for Kevin Benavides, who led throughout on the Honda CRF450 RALLY in today’s penultimate battle. After yesterday’s crucial win, Benavides was the first to set out this morning in a special stage that had been reduced by 34 kilometres, with the start moved to CP1. A total of 170 km, filled with troublesome navigation, played out for the most part, on speedy off-piste track, but with some work in the dunes too. The result sees Kevin Benavides jump two positions on the leaderboard where he now holds a 3’05 advantage over the nearest second-place rival with just one day to go. Tomorrow kicks off with a motocross-style start, followed by two laps of a 37 km circuit.
Benavides’ Team HRC companion, Ricky Brabec (U.S.A) turned out a solid performance chalking up a splendid fifth place. Today the Californian did far better with the navigation and pace in a far-from-easy while-knuckle stage. He maintains his 6th place in the overall.
Ricky Brabec (Stage 5th, overall 6th):
"Today was really good; one of the fastest days here. Navigation was way better for me today – for each note on the roadbook you had a little bit of space. It gave you time to think about the note and what was coming up next. It was unlike the first three days, which were very difficult for me. This is by far the trickiest roadbook that I have done. I’m learning a little bit. Out here it seems like you have to go slow to go faster. You can’t just go fast because if so, you just blow the corner and then you just lose time each time you do it. Today was good. Tomorrow is a motocross start, so maybe tomorrow on the second lap around I will put some time up on some riders because I will know where everything is and it will be more like a practice run. "
Kevin Benavides (Stage 1st, overall 1st)
"Today has been the happiest of the race so far. Apart from the result, I’m really pleased because I opened the way and I finished first, without having any references out in front of me. It was difficult to navigate with a lot of off-road, many dangers and tracks that were impossible to find. I was able to mark a difference. I really believed in my chances; I was very focused and it all worked out well. Last night we slept in the high mountains for the marathon stage in a very distinct bivouac. I wish to thank Ricky Brabec who gave his exhaust pipe over to me, as mine was in bad shape. It has been great team-work. I’d also like to thank the whole team for the great job that they’ve done up until now. Let’s see how the stage tomorrow goes."
Roberto Boasso (Team Manager):
I’m happy because today Kevin had a great stage, in first place the whole way, opening the way from start to finish, navigating well and riding fast. This means that he’s more confident in his riding and even more so when you consider that the rivals were trying to catch him up from behind. He’s been cool and calculating. He was helped yesterday by Brabec, who we’d like to thank on behalf of the team. This says a lot about the team and how united we are. Today’s result is, in part, thanks to Brabec and all the mechanics who have helped them reach their goals. Tomorrow won’t be easy. We are calm about it but the race finishes at the chequered flag. Let’s hope it goes well. Thanks to everyone, to Kevin and Ricky and all of those following us throughout the world.