Joan Barreda and Ricky Brabec in one part of the world, and Kevin Benavides and Paulo Gonçalves in another, were the stars of an action-packed weekend which concluded with victory in the United States and second and third place finishes in Chile.

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Monster Energy Honda Team continue to collect prizes during the preparation programme that will ultimately culminate with the team’s main season objective: the 2018 Dakar Rally. This weekend saw the team come away from two separate competitions with noteworthy results: the Atacama Rally, in the arid Chilean desert and the Vegas-Reno, which links the two Nevada state cities in the United States.

Kevin Benavides, with two stage victories, finished the Chilean rally – the third date in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – in overall runner-up position. The Argentinean was in the battle for the leadership throughout the entire six-day event (five full stages and a prologue), although local rider Pablo Quintanilla – current world champion – managed to sneak the top spot on the final day. Portuguese team-mate and brother-in-arms at the Atacama Rally, Paulo Gonçalves, fell victim to a sanction for speeding at a check-point in the first stage, that proved to be an insurmountable burden throughout the rest of the rally. In the end Paulo was rewarded with a hard-earned place on the final podium. Monster Energy Honda Team had managed to place both of the duo on the Atacama Rally rostrum.

In the overall standings of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, after the Atacama Rally, Paulo Gonçalves holds third overall place with options for a final podium finish, whilst Kevin Benavides makes a leap in the general rankings to fifth position after the runner-spot in the Chilean race.

DOMINANT DUO IN THE U.S.

Meanwhile, Brabec and Barreda dominated the longest offroad event in the United States – the Vegas to Reno. By the end of the 864 kilometres (539 miles) course they had opened up a margin of over fifteen minutes over the nearest rival. Brabec had previously taken the top prize in 2014, while Spaniard Barreda made history last year by winning the twentieth edition of the most prestigious offroad U.S. race. The Honda CRF450 RALLY made it thanks to a combination of the riders’ efforts, the teamwork of JCR-Honda and the direct support from American Honda. Frenchman Michael Metge was also present as reserve rider.

Johnny Campbell, manager of the team in Vegas to Reno race, said: “I am very please with the outcome of the 2017 Vegas to Reno for our team. Every one of our team members played a key role to this win here in Nevada. Once again, Joan and Ricky proved they are the team to beat and the CRF450Rally is a great weapon for this style of race. I want to thank Taichi Honda, our Team Leader and Joe Parsons from Monster Energy for giving me the opportunity to put this effort through the test here in the US for the second year in a row.
This is just one step toward our ultimate goal of winning the Dakar in January 2018. We will now be off to Argentina in a few days to compete in the Ruta 40 with the entire Monster Energy Honda Team.”

Next week the riders and crew move on to the Argentinean city of San Juan to take part in the fourth date in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship calendar. The team will take part in its entirety as the preparation for the forthcoming Dakar 2018 continues.

Private: Taichi Honda

Monster Energy Honda Team Rally Large Project Leader

We have taken a good step forward in our preparations for the next Dakar. In Atacama the riders did well; both riders made a few mistakes but they performanced well and we will continue to improve step by step ahead of the Dakar. Also, in the Vegas to Reno, the riders put on a fine display too. They were really focused on every part. We also put some new items to the test in both races, which went well. We will continue to use the forthcoming few races to get feedback before the next Dakar rally. We have also changed the team strategy so everybody is working hard and doing a great job towards building a fine team for the next Dakar. Thank you to all the Honda fans and sponsors and thanks too for the great support from Honda Chile and American Honda.

Private: Raul Castells

Monster Energy Honda Team Manager

It’s been a very intense week for the Monster Energy Honda Team, with two races in which the riders have picked up great results. Joan Barreda and Ricky Brabec’s victory in the Vegas-Reno has shown, once again, that hard work brings rewards. We are really satisfied with the team work which has given us the maximum both in Chile and the Nevada desert to get the best possible result. I wish to thank Johnny Campbell and JCR-Honda for their support and also American Honda and Monster Energy for all their help in the team’s participation in this, one of the most important races. Now it’s time to focus on the next race, the Desafío Ruta 40 in which we will have all five of the riders together which will be a trial by fire for the team ahead of the Dakar 2018.

Ricky Brabec

This year's Vegas to Reno was tough but went well for the Monster Energy Honda Team. I started in third position two minutes behind the first bike. I was fortunate to move to second early in the race when the second place rider had a crash. I stopped to see if he was okay and then continued. We passed for the lead before Pit 2 when that bike had a wheel problem. From there we just needed to manage the race with no mistakes. I handed the bike to Joan after 150 miles at Pit 4. Joan rode great and stretched out the lead to almost 10 minutes before we had to service the bike with new wheels and fuel at Pit 9 (mile 300).
I took the bike from there and was maintaining well when I had a mishap at about race mile 385. I hit a rock in a shadow and went down. Fortunately I was not hurt but the bike took some damage to the muffler.
After losing three minutes I got the bike to Pit 11 in Gabbs where Travis and Mitch from JCR did a quick modification to the muffler to keep me going. At Pit 12 we stopped for our final refuelling, Gnarly Dave's pit crew did an outstanding quick pit stop there. I then rode to Pit 13 and handed the bike back to Joan for the final 77 mile dash to the finish. I want to thank Joan, my partner, for his team work and super speed on the bike, Johnny for all his hard work and logistics, Roberto and Carlos for a flawless bike and all the JCR/Honda volunteers and crew for their speedy pits and dedication for this win! It feels great to win on my home turf here in the USA!

2017 Cross-Country Rallies
Post-Race

World Championship Provisional Standings

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 Sunderland Sam GBR KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 77 points
2 Quintanilla Pablo CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna 71 points
3 Goncalves Paulo POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 59 points
4 Walkner Matthias AUT KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 52 points
5 Benavides Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 44 points
6 Renet Pierre-Alexandre FRA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna 31 points
7 Meo Antoine FRA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 25 points
8 McBride David GBR Vendetta Racing UAE KTM 24 points
9 Al Balooshi Mohammed UAE Ride to Abu Dhabi Team KTM 23 points
10 Tomiczek Adam POL KTM Orlen Rally Team KTM 20 points

Atacama Rally 2017 Monster Energy Honda Team

Atacama Rally 2017 Monster Energy Honda Team