Troublesome day for Team HRC in Morocco
After the sweet taste left by yesterday’s results in the Morocco Rally, today’s stage was a bitter one for Team HRC. Overall leader Barreda fell and was forced to retire, while a rock complicated the good work of Paulo Goncalves.
The toughness of the 293 kilometre fourth stage between Zagora and Agadir wreaked havoc among the Team HRC squad. No sooner had the timed-special started when Paulo Gonçalves took a hit from one of the many rocks being launched into the air from the front wheel, seriously damaging the petrol tank and fuel pump. With a petrol leak to deal with, Paulo, unable to repair the damage, was forced to battle on through the special stage at a slower pace. Although the setback cost Paulo a lot of time, the Portuguese rider nevertheless holds on to his overall fourth place in the general standings, but is virtually out of the running for a race win.
Paolo Ceci, who continued to get used to the bike, was able to raise the pace although without taking any risks today. The Italian is clearing much more comfortable now with the Honda CRF 450 RALLY.
Joan Barreda had an accident some thirteen kilometres into the special stage. The Spaniard, who remained concussed on the track, had to be airlifted to safety. At the time of writing this, after a CT scan in Marrakech hospital, no serious injuries have been detected. The team wishes to thank Quintanilla, Walkner and Benavides who stopped to notify the race organizers of the accident.
Honda South America Rally Team managed to get through the hazardous stage unharmed. Kevin Benavides continues to surprise in his first world championship race with an eighth place on the day and fifth overall, confirming his status as top ‘rookie’. Likewise, Jean Azevedo is forging ahead with the bike that he first saw on the eve of the race. He remains up close to the main group and has moved up a place in the overall standings.
Paulo Goncalves: “Today, a few kilometres from the start, in a stone-filled area, a big rock hit me and broke the petrol tank and the fuel pump. I tried, but I couldn’t get it fixed and so I had to slow the rhythm right down to be able to arrive with the minimum amount of gasoline that was in the rear tank. I lost a lot of time and I will have to try to finish the rally tomorrow in the best possible way.”
Paolo Ceci: “Today I had a great special stage, although very long and dangerous. I see that Joan was taken away and I hope that it isn’t anything serious. Paulo had a few problems with the fuel tank. I’m happy because I kept at a good pace and a rhythm that is getting faster and faster as I get used to the bike. I hope to be ready for the Dakar.”
Joan Barreda: “I still don’t know exactly what happened. I felt great during the whole rally and I tried to have a good rally today because I knew that it could be definitive. Suddenly, I found myself on the ground. I lost consciousness for about three minutes and then I saw that the other riders had stopped to help me. Thanks! It was a shame because I was riding well and could have won it. I feel bad, above all for Honda and all the Team HRC. The team is doing a great job and the bike is going really well. They took me to hospital for a check-up and the doctors said that I’m fine… See you at the Dakar.”
Kevin Benavides: “For me today has been the most dangerous of the four stages. The tracks were very fast and there were a lot of dangers. The routes were very short with a lot of bumps and jumps. At the beginning of the stage I stopped for six minutes to help Joan who had fallen. I called the helicopter and after I continued passing some of the riders up ahead. I kept up a good rhythm, but always paying attention to the roadbook for all the dangers that were about. I made it safely through the special.”
Jean Azevedo: “He had a really dangerous stage with a lot of stones which forced us to change plans. I went calmly to be able to arrive safely. It wasn’t a day for running risks. I wanted to get around a bit on the bike. I’m happy to have finished the day without any problems.”