Destination Morocco: last big test for Team HRC prior to the Dakar
The 2015 edition of the OiLibya Morocco Rally commences on Monday, the final hurdle of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with the Dakar looming.
The FIM Cross-Country Rallies calendar closes this week with the Morocco Rally – the sixth and final event – with a vibrant Team HRC poised to do battle and achieve the clear objective in mind: victory.
In addition to the squad’s rally aspirations, Team HRC have high hopes of rounding off the world championship season with a medal for Paulo Gonçalves, currently lying fifth in the overall table.
Team HRC’s participation will consist of Paulo Gonçalves and Joan Barreda, although once again the team will provide support to up-and-coming young rally raiders as they did in Abu Dhabi earlier this year with Ricky Brabec. This time it will be the turn of Argentinean Kevin Benavides who will be backed by Team HRC thanks to the excellent relationship between the team and Honda South America Rally Team. A last minute change will see Michael Metge, who sustained an elbow injury in training, replaced by Brazilian Jean Azevedo, a fellow member of the Honda South America Rally Team.
Also featuring in the Team HRC line-up for the last date of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship will be Italian Paolo Ceci. Ceci holds 13 Italian MotoRally championship titles, was winner of the 2013 TransAnatolia Rally and finished runner-up in 2009 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. The Italian has posted a top-twenty finish in each of his four Dakar participations.
The race-start and nerve-centre of the event will be Zagora and it will be to the south of this city where the opening races will be fought out; the Mhamid dune valley, the Draa valley and the Chegagga Erg will all feature before the OiLibya Morocco Rally heads to the Atlantic Coast for the first time, finishing up in Agadir after a total trek of 1,358 kilometres of timed stages.
Taichi Honda, Team HRC Rally Project Leader: “This is a very important rally before the 2016 Dakar and we continue working on the bike’s development and also on the final technical specifications. Hopefully everything will go well for all the riders, the bikes, as well as for all the members of Team HRC.”
Martino Bianchi, Team HRC General Manager: “As usual the Morocco race is a very important one as it is the last “team practice” before the Dakar. We have made some last minute changes in our rider format here in Morocco as Ricky Brabec is still recuperating from his injury of June and will only be able to be 100% fit for the end of October. Also, Michael Metge suffered a last minute injury before setting off for Morocco and broke his elbow. So we have given the chance to Argentinean Kevin Benavides of Honda Argentina and to the Brazilian Jean Azevedo to race here. Thanks to our great collaboration with Honda South America, we can offer these riders the chance to get more experience in an international rally such is Morocco Oilibya. I am also happy to welcome the Italian rider Paolo Ceci to Team HRC, who has a long experience on the rally scene and will give us an important help in order to achieve our target.”
Wolfgang Fischer, Team HRC Team Manager: “Team HRC arrived well here in Morocco for the last round of the 2015 World Championship. It is a good preparation and is always the last race before the Dakar, to bring all the team together, to check all the last specifications of the bikes, to do a good training session and a set-up check for all the functions and all the staff. For us the world championship is not so important anymore as we lost valuable points before, but now we have a good new combination of riders which we are happy about and we are also giving the chance to some riders from Honda South America with Jean Azevedo and Kevin Benavides joining our team for this race. All in all, we are positive about having a good and efficient group of people together here and are looking forward to a good race and keep making preparations for the Dakar. Also, we’d like to welcome one new team member, Paulo Ceci. He will be our fifth rider in Dakar 2016 giving us a strong backup.”