Team HRC’s two youngest riders, American Ricky Brabec and Argentine Kevin Benavides, are all set to tackle the first challenge of the season: the Afriquia Merzouga Rally, which starts on Monday.

Kevin Benavides, after having posted a brilliant fourth place on his Rally Dakar 2016 debut earlier this, will line up alongside fellow Dakar rookie Ricky Brabec, who finished ninth. Benavides, just five minutes shy of a Dakar podium place, has been chosen along with Brabec to represent a revamped Team HRC, back in competition with the first date of the Dakar Series: the Afriquia Merzouga Rally.

The race, which Team HRC won in 2013 with Sam Sunderland, is one of the trickiest in the calendar, and is renowned for its highly-demanding navigation. The rally should prove to be a steep learning curve for both Brabec and Benavides.

The Merzouga Rally will give Ricky Brabec, USA, his first taste of racing on African soil. For Kevin Benavides, Argentina, this will be the second occasion in which he competes in Morocco, after having scored a notable fourth place there in October last year.

The Afriquia Merzouga Rally will be held in the surroundings of Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, from Monday, May 23 until Friday, May 27. It will consist of five stages plus a prologue to take place on Sunday afternoon and will also include a marathon stage, during which, riders will not be allowed to make any mechanical repairs to the bikes. The final day’s racing will commence with a spectacular Le Mans-style start. The route is a total of 1,519 kilometres, 972 of them are special stage.

Taichi Honda

HRC Team Representative

We have worked on some aspects of the bike since the most recent Dakar to improve on some points which were causing us problems. Now we are looking forward to the new season with the Merzouga Rally. We continue to develop the machine and work towards our goal, which is the Dakar Rally. For the Merzouga Rally we are bringing two riders who have the mission of improving navigation skills and also testing out the bike. We hope that this will give them more experience and we also hope that the result is a good one for the riders and the future of the team. Also, it’s an important event for the team and for developing teamwork. We have changed various team members and I have the feeling that it is a good one. I see that everyone is very motivated.

Private: Martino Bianchi

Monster Energy Honda General Manager

This is the first rally in the 2016 season for Team HRC. In this period of time there have been many changes to the team – since the Dakar the team has undergone a 50% restructuring. The riders are almost the same. For the Merzouga Rally, Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides will be competing. Benavides, who recently signed for Team HRC, will be here to gain experience with the official HRC team and later dispute the Dakar with the assistance of Honda South America and the MEC Team.
So, this will be an important test and a chance to fine-tune the squad and do some team-building, as well as giving the young riders some experience. Brabec and Benevides have already proven themselves to be fast, but need races like the Merzouga Rally to learn the navigation better and to be ready to face the sand and the new challenges that the Moroccan desert can offer. I’m very pleased with the way things have been going until now. Our new Team Manager Roberto Boasso is very motivated and has great confidence in the team. So, all that remains is to wish everyone a safe rally and a good start to the season.

Ricky Brabec

This will be my first time in Africa and I have seen that there will be a lot of dunes… and also a lot of heat! Really, I can’t hope for much more than to finish the rally – it’s important for me and also for the team, who will be hoping that I finish well. This is my first rally since the Dakar and I still have a lot to learn such as the navigation. I hope that everything goes well and that I am able to finish the race. Those are my two aims: improve the navigation and prepare well for the next Dakar.

Kevin Benavides

Here, in the Merzouga Rally the navigation is going to be very demanding. It will be very good for me to keep on accumulating mileage and improve in that respect. Training in the dunes will be very positive. I’m happy to be riding with Ricky Brabec, who I got very friendly with in the last Dakar as both of us were rookies and we were painting in the roadbooks together on some of the stages. I hope we can work well together as a team.

Location Information

Merzouga, Mequinez-Tafilalet, Marruecos - View in Google Maps