Honda Team HRC still in the chase for Dakar glory
*Change of scenery in the second week of the Dakar Rally
As the 2016 Dakar heads towards the second marathon stage, the race has seen a slight reshuffle in the overall standings, yet with Paulo Gonçalves still firmly in contention after today’s very difficult stage. Team HRC on course to achieve their objectives.
The Dakar Rally course has now veered off towards Belén in the south east without losing sight of the Andes. The course towards the leadership has also taken a turn with respect to the opening week. The stage was split into two parts with a neutralization zone for the passage from Salta to Catamarca. The backdrop has changed as the race moves on to far tougher navigation compared to the previous week’s racing. The eighth stage took in some 766 kilometres, including a 393 km timed section.
Paulo Gonçalves concluded the special stage as runner-up 5’17” adrift of stage winner Toby Price. Team HRC’s Portuguese title contender was unable to avoid a high speed crash in a very pot-holed stretch that left the instrument panel of the Honda CRF450 RALLY damaged. Gonçalves after the accident, on a damage-limitation exercise, battled on at a slightly slower speed and managed not to concede much time to his main rival.
USA entry Ricky Brabec got his first real taste of demanding Dakar-style navigation and sailed positively through it. In the first special, he stopped to aid team-mate Michael Metge, victim of an probably electrical fault, until the Frenchman indicated that he was once more good to go. On his maiden Dakar adventure, the young American made it through to the Belén finish-line amid the first fifteen finishers. This order could change depending on the race authority ruling after the rider had stopped to assist another fallen competitor. Paolo Ceci, starting from the dusty end of the field, held a steady pace throughout the day to finish twenty-fifth. The Italian was feeling comfortable with the navigational aspect of the race. Metge is still trying to end the stage.
Kevin Benavides, set off at a gallop from second place this morning in his home town and even managed to lead the race for a while. However, the navigation almost proved his undoing, slowing him down to a final fifth place on the day. Likewise, the Argentinean rider lies in fifth place in the overall standings. His Honda South America Rally Team buddy Adrien Metge also continues improving in his Dakar apprenticeship. Today he posted 16th, his best finish to date.