As the OiLibya Morocco Rally finished, so concluded the 2017 programme of racing activities for Monster Energy Honda Team. The season had begun in April with the two Abu Dhabi and Qatar desert races in the Middle East, as part of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
It has been an intense year for the Monster Energy Honda Team with five world championship rounds, plus other thrilling rally events and private testing sessions that has taken the squad across four diverse continents, (Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa) culminating in a silver medal clinched in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The team rounds off the season with a thoroughly positive overall balance sheet that has seen noteworthy performances from riders, bikes and the technical and mechanical teams. Victories in 2017 in the Sonora Rally, the Baja Aragón, the Vegas to Reno, the Desafío Ruta 40 and the Baja Inka 1000, along with the runner-up spots in the Atacama Rally and the Morocco Rally have consolidated Monster Energy Honda Team’s formidable position, leaving the team fully-prepared to tackle forthcoming events.
In the most recent Morocco Rally, the team showed a high level of competitive resolve. The riders once again threw everything at the Honda CRF450 RALLY over the five gruelling stages of the rally. The machine responded perfectly to the challenge without producing the slightest set back in the final event of the world championship calendar, where the race that went down to the wire. The results themselves verify the reliability of the Honda CRF450 RALLY as the team accumulated stage wins, race victories and podium places.
Kevin Benavides, who landed in Morocco lying in fourth place in the world championship table, eventually found himself battling for victory in the overall title, once Portuguese Monster Energy Honda Team companion Paulo Gonçalves had been forced to retire due to injury. The Argentine rider, after keeping options open throughout, ended up taking second place on the final championship leader board after a very intense final stage. Team-mate Ricky Brabec finished in third place on the 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally final podium as the American rider sealed his first ever world championship stage win.
Paulo Gonçalves was forced to return home to Portugal to have his right hand examined which revealed a small fracture. Two weeks rest should be enough for ‘Speedy’ to get back in the saddle once more. Frenchman Michael Metge had been unable to make the start after a bout of flu left the rider without strength. Metge has since recovered and is back working on physical preparations.
Nevertheless, the racing and training carried out until now is just one aspect of the ‘real pre-season’ for Monster Energy Honda Team. The world championship participation and the other races all form a part of the great build-up to rallying’s greatest challenge and blue riband event: the 2018 Dakar Rally.
Monster Energy Honda Team are now poised for the official team presentation that will line up for the forthcoming Rally Dakar 2018, before all the hardware is loaded up bound for the final destination – South America – in late November.
Pictures: Honda Racing Corporation