The Morocco Rally concludes – the last stepping stone in the season before Team HRC heads off to tackle the main objective. The team comes away from the final race of the season having drawn positive conclusions that could prove decisive with the Dakar Rally looming.
Three wins out of five stages, a podium finish and a world championship bronze medal reads the final balance sheet for Team HRC in Morocco. The completive races have thus concluded and in front lie two and a half months before the 2016 Dakar gets underway – a trilling countdown ahead of the world’s hardest and most exhausting race.
Paulo Gonçalves battled hard all week to keep the chance of a world championship title win alive. However, the Portuguese rider saw his hopes dashed after getting lost on the second day, although this did little to diminish the will to fight. Paulo won two stages and an unexpected final twist saw the Team HRC rider finish in third overall. The points acquired were enough to secure a bronze medal in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Joan Barreda won the first stage and took back the leadership in the third stage although a heavy fall on day four put an end to any aspirations to an overall victory. The Spaniard was forced to quit the race. Barreda escaped without serious injury and will line up on full form for the Dakar.
In Morocco, Team HRC took part using the bikes and the set-ups that will feature at the Dakar, although the some last minute changes forced a change in the human element. The Morocco line up was reshuffled after Michael Metge had picked up an elbow injury, with Italian Paolo Ceci being drafted in to make up the team. Ceci, showing great team spirit, finished in the top ten.
Team HRC invited South American riders Kevin Benavides and Jean Azevedo from Honda South America Rally Team to participate. This was the third rally outing for the Argentinian, the first event outside of the Americas and also the debut in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. The result was a fine one: a fourth place finish that will boost confidence for his Dakar debut. Azevedo had to adapt to a different bike from the one he has used in the Brazilian championship and once he had found the groove, started to produce some pacey performances.
Next, Team HRC will be attending various commitments for the official team presentation. All the riders who will be taking part in the forthcoming Dakar will be present at Milan’s EICMA and also in Paris for the ASO presentation of the 2016 edition of the Dakar Rally.