Monster Energy Honda reviews the Dakar Rally

The great Dakar challenge still eludes the Monster Energy Honda Team. The 2019 Dakar Rally may have ended, but the toughest, trickiest and most ruthless rally for both man and machine still remains the main outstanding team objective.

At the 2019 Dakar, Monster Energy Honda Team romped to stage victories, led for a great part of the race and showed themselves to be one of the hottest teams to beat, with several squad riders in contention, poised for success some 30 years on. But lifting the winning bronze touareg at the end of the race remains elusive. The lack of trophy will do little, however, to discourage the team as it endeavours to prepare further and grow stronger ahead of the next edition of the Dakar Rally.

The 2019 edition of the great challenge, which took place entirely on Peruvian soil, got underway with a full Monster Energy Honda Team, made up of five riders, bringing a blend of experience and youth, including such figures as Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves, Spaniard Joan Barreda, Chilean Nacho Cornejo, American Ricky Brabec and Argentine rider Kevin Benavides. Throughout the 2018 season the squad repeatedly triumphed in events such as the Merzouga Rally, the Atacama Rally, the Ruta 40 and the Inca Challenge.

During the first week of racing, the team occupied top positions, initially with Joan Barreda, winner of the first stage, who kept hold of the coveted first place on day two, only to prematurely retire the following day. A surprising Ricky Brabec took up the torch, winning stage four and remaining overall leader until day eight.

Subsequently, the team suffered the full force of race regulations with Kevin Benavides picking up a heavy sanction which put an end to the Argentine’s chances of a podium finish. The twelfth final position certainly did no justice to the continued efforts and development of Benavides.

Chilean José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo finished the odyssey with an excellent seventh overall place after finishing in runner-up spot on two stages. A notable Dakar for the team’s youngest rider.

The other team members didn’t make the final finish line: Joan Barreda was forced out when his bike got trapped at the bottom of a ravine on the third stage: Paulo Gonçalves suffered a fall on leg two of the marathon stage, and likewise Ricky Brabec, when a mechanical issue robbed the American of his leading overall position.

The final balance that Monster Energy Honda Team can take away from the event is a positive one, both for the individual performances and the joint team effort. The team comes away more experienced and with a huge desire to achieve the highest possible honours in the next edition of the Dakar in 2020

The team wishes its thanks Honda Peru for the use of their facilities provided both during the preparation and the race itself. Likewise, the excellent collaboration maintained with MEC Team with their three other Honda riders, will not be forgotten. Their Bolivian rider Daniel Nosiglia, aboard a Honda CRF450 RALLY, achieved a commendable result, finishing in an excellent tenth overall place.

Dakar 19: Monster Energy Honda Team finishes the Dakar 2019

Nacho Cornejo narrowly missed out on a maiden stage victory on the tenth and final day of the 2019 Dakar Rally. The runner-up spot in today’s special placed him in a position which greatly improves on last year’s performance.

Chilean rider Nacho Cornejo showed his pace yet again, marking the best time during the final special timed stage of the Dakar Rally fought in the Ica dunes close to Paracas. Cornejo, with the second final position, 2’21 behind the special stage winner, concludes his best Dakar performance to date, improving on the tenth overall position achieved in the most recent edition. Today the rider posted seventh place in the general standings this year – a promising result for the young man from Iquique.

When reflecting on the rally he had this to say:

The truth is that I am very happy about the comeback that I have made. At the beginning I lost time in one stage and the chances of being in the top ten were a little bit off, but we did not give up and pushed until the end. I ended up being seventh in the general, so I’m very happy. I am also satisfied with today’s stage, a second place is very good, I think I made a good performance. I would have liked it too if my companions could have finished the race, as some of them would have achieved the victory. At one point we had two riders fighting for the victory and we go home know that we have five riders in the squad capable of fighting for the top, which is very positive for the team. I have no doubt that next year we will return stronger. Personally, I will continue to work hard to keep up with the team’s objectives for the next edition of the Dakar. I want to thank all the staff of the team that have worked very hard, thank them for the great commitment they have with the project. We will continue working hard to achieve victory in the coming years.

Kevin Benavides, meanwhile, was sixth on the day, finishing the rally in twelfth overall position due to an extraordinary sanction that the rider picked up which the team is currently disputing. He commented:

It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would finish, obviously I have prepared a lot for this edition, I had a very big dream to fight for. It’s a bit ugly to end up like this and that things are resolved at a table. Finally I finished the race in a decent way, with my head held high as a good athlete. Both Honda and I have done things well. We have appealed against the penalty and now we will have to wait until the race is over to see what happens. For my part today I went out to enjoy the last stage, I rode calmly. Our next goal is the world championship and then to prepare for the next Dakar. I want to thank all the team, sponsors, family, girlfriend, friends and all the people who support me through social networks. Thank you very much to all.

 

Source: HRC News

Dakar 19: Nacho Cornejo takes a leap forward in the penultimate stage of the Dakar

Chilean rider Nacho Cornejo climbed to sixth place in the general rankings of the 2019 Dakar Rally in the ninth and penultimate stage.

Day nine of the 2019 Dakar took place in the area around Pisco, once again with a motocross-style mass start with riders setting off in waves of ten. 90% of the route was off-piste with half the special in the dunes and the second half of the 313-kilometre stage battled out over harder terrain.

Monster Energy Honda Team’s top rider proved to be Nacho Cornejo. The Chilean got off to a swift, yet cautious start, but was able to push hard in the dunes, producing a performance that ranked among the best times of the day. Nacho’s sixth place on the stage meant the rider moves up to sixth overall.

Kevin Benavides came out guns blazing and opened the track for much of the special. A hard-to-locate waypoint caused the first wave of riders to reach the leading group and narrow the times down even further. Benavides eventually posted twelfth, 4’14” behind the stage winner.

The final stage of the 2019 Dakar takes place today, Thursday and will include a timed special stage of 112 kilometres. Riders will then have to complete a liaison section that will bring them to the Magdalena beach in Lima, where the rally concludes.

SANCTION TO KEVIN BENAVIDES
Kevin Benavides was sanctioned yesterday with a 3:00’00 penalty after race authorities deemed that the rider had violated one of the new rules established for the race. The team is currently gathering all the necessary information to present an official claim against the sanction.

Source: HRC News

Dakar 2019 Stage 8 puts a spanner in the works for Monster Energy Honda Team

The brutality of the Dakar Rally today showed its most bitter face to Monster Energy Honda Team as Ricky Brabec was forced out on stage eight. Nacho Cornejo opened the track throughout almost the entire special and Benavides got delayed with navigational instrument issues.

It was an endless, troublesome day for the Monster Energy Honda Team riders who suffered the harshness of the Dakar Rally, particularly for Ricky Brabec, who was forced to abandon the race while still holding top spot in the general standings. “It was a shame, but I will go away happy with the good pace that I have set in this Dakar. I will return with even more motivation next year,” stated the American as he arrived back at the Pisco bivouac.

The eighth stage, the ‘Super-Ica’, got underway yesterday morning with a mixed car and bike start which saw Nacho Cornejo and Ricky Brabec head out onto an open track with the pair both intent on obtaining crucial results in the special. Nacho was forced to open the way given that Sunderland claimed to have a bike issue and consequently started later. The Chilean was thus lumbered with the weight of opening throughout almost the whole day. Only towards the end was he briefly passed over a couple of kilometres by the car of Peterhansel who eventually got stuck in the dunes. Despite the handicap Cornejo performed valiantly on a high-speed, error-free ride to wrap up the day with the eighth fastest time.

Meanwhile Kevin Benavides had to endure a problem with the navigation equipment during the 361-kilometre special, which delayed the rider considerably. The Argentine Monster Energy Honda Team is sixth in the race overall.

Today Wednesday sees the penultimate stage of this 2019 Dakar Rally which will once again be held on a looping circuit, this time from Pisco. There race will include 313 kilometres of timed special stage out of a total of 410 kilometres on the day.

Stage 7: Ricky Brabec retakes the leadership of the Dakar

Monster Energy Honda Team returns to the top of the leader board of the world’s toughest rally. American Ricky Brabec battled back to overall leadership as the Dakar Rally arrived at its seventh stage, one day ahead of the Super-Ica which should prove to be the longest and most gruelling stage of the current edition.

The two Honda CR450 RALLYs of Nacho Cornejo and Ricky Brabec made it onto today’s virtual podium on day seven of the 2019 Dakar Rally. The Chilean narrowly missed out on the stage victory, while rampant Californian Brabec rode a storming ride back to the top. Kevin Benavides, second on Sunday, went in search of a good starting position from which to attack tomorrow.

It was an arduous, tough day out in San Juan de Marcona. Competitors faced a torturous battlefield, as today’s stage played out over the terrain already used in an earlier stage. The consequent passage of cars, SSV and trucks had left huge ruts and churned up sand. The stage featured 323 kilometres of special on a looping stage with departure and arrival in San Juan de Marcona.

The best rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team bunch turned out to be Nacho Cornejo, who came within a whisker of clinching his first Dakar stage win. The Chilean set a cracking pace in the first part and had no difficulty in finding one of the more critical waypoints in the special whilst others doubted and which eventual led to the day’s second quickest time. Nacho lies twelfth in the overall standings, just over an hour behind the leader.

Third today was Ricky Brabec, although the American was more than happy to retake the overall lead. Brabec was comfortable over the terrain that included dunes and was fast enough to mark the third best time of the day some 6’30” off the stage winner. Ricky now holds a 7’47” advantage over the nearest second place rival Frenchman Van Beveren.

Kevin Benavides started the day behind Quintanilla and, after catching him up on the track, continued until he experienced some trouble finding an awkwar waypoint. The Argentine rider arrived amid the main group posting twelfth best time. The Argentine is sixth in the provisional rankings. The main concern for the Argentine rider had been the state of the terrain which had been destroyed with some stretches having been used three times. Expect more of the same tomorrow as ten cars and five trucks will have already started out by the time the bikers start the “Super-Ica”.

The longest special of this rally will have a total of 361 kilometres against the clock out of a total of 576 km before reaching Pisco.

Source: HRC News 

Stage 6 Dakar 2019: Brabec and Benavides remain in the fight for the Dakar

In spite it being Sunday, there was no rest for the Dakar yesterday. Far from it: Sunday witnessed the longest stage so far in the 2019 odyssey at 839 kilometres. The route took competitors from inland to the coast – from the cold and wet heights of Arequipa to warm and windy San Juan de Marcona.

Riders rode the first 177 km-liaison section late yesterday evening which took the entourage to the impressive Tanaka dunes on the coast. Today the riders battled out an opening 84km-special, which was followed by an 18km neutralization section before the stage’s main trek – a tough 232km special which returned the bikers back to the bivouac in San Juan de Marcona.

Kevin Benavides fought nail and tooth for the stage win and nearly pulled it off, coming home less than two minutes shy of stage winner Quintanilla. However, the Argentine Monster Energy Honda Team climbed the overall leader board from seventh to fourth place, eating one minute into the overall leader’s time.

Californian Ricky Brabec dropped a little time today trying to validate an awkward waypoint, which saw him concede the privileged position of overall race leader, although the American remains just four minutes adrift of the top spot.

Nacho Cornejo, who moved up to second place after race authorities returned the time that he had spent assisting fallen rider Paulo Gonçalves in stage five, ended up opening the way for several kilometres. As a consequence of this disadvantageous position the Chilean dropped time but managed to keep pace with his adversaries.

Today, Monday, sees the first of the looping stages which this edition of the Dakar will feature. Riders can look forward to the highest proportion of kilometres of special stage out of the total of 387 to be completed. The hundred participants still surviving will face 323 kilometres of special. The stage will have some complicated navigation and will play out over broken ground, as the area has already seen the vehicles pass over it on previous days.

Stage 5 Dakar 2019: Brabec arrives at the rest day overall leader

The Dakar Rally reached the halfway point with the dispute of the fifth stage on Friday Jan 11th. The second part of the marathon stage proved to be a particularly tactical affair with riders seeking to secure favourable attacking positions for the coming days. Ricky Brabec still holds the top spot in the general standings and Benavides is well-positioned to tackle the second part of the rally.

American Ricky Brabec arrives at the rest day of the Dakar in Arequipa, as race leader. Today the Monster Energy Honda Team rider handled the stage with intelligence after having taken command at the top of the general rankings yesterday.

The start of this fifth stage commenced after a 161-kilometre link section from the Moquegua camp and featured a mass line start with waves of ten riders starting together. The latter part of the special saw competitors face the dunes of Illo with 65% off-piste before a further 345 kilometres of timed special.

Monster Energy Honda Team riders performed well on a stage whose objective was to secure optimal start positions for the following stage rather than an outright stage win. The rest day arrives tomorrow in Arequipa with Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides lying in tenth and eleventh places respectively. Both riders finished just 6’46” seconds behind the winner of the special.

Ricky Brabec holds the first position of the rally, with 16:51’34 and Kevin Benavides is nine minutes behind in the sixth place.

Nacho Cornejo finished in seventeenth place, 13’10 seconds adrift of the leader. The Chilean rider stopped to attend Paulo Gonçalves, who had fallen at the kilometre 155 of the special sustaining a damaged right wrist. Gonçalves, with twelve Dakar participations under his belt, was forced to retire from the race.

Tomorrow in Arequipa, the riders can savour a well-earned day of rest. The action restarts on Sunday with a stage that takes the entourage back to San Juan de Marcona.

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Stage 4 Dakar 2019: Ricky Brabec, leader of the Dakar!

Monster Energy Honda Team’s American rider Ricky Brabec staged an authentic coup d’état at the fourth stage of the Dakar Rally, not only battling to victory on the day, but also storming the first place spot on the overall leader board. Benavides and Gonçalves were among the top ten.

Today saw the first leg of the marathon stage at the 2019 Dakar en route from Arequipa to Moquegua, where the 124 remaining motorcycle riders had an early start to cover the opening 85-kilometre link section before the first part of the 205-kilometre special. The day was soured by biting cold and humidity in both the city and the mountainous regions. Ricky Brabec set off like a bat out of hell, marking the best time in the process. After a neutralization of 54 kilometres, the second part of the special, over 146 kilometres, proved even better for the American, who cruised home with a six-minute advantage over the nearest finisher, dethroning the previous overall leader Pablo Quintanilla with a walloping twenty minute gap. In doing so, Brabec triumphs for the second time in a stage after the victory in 2017 on the La Paz-Uyuni stage. The American takes the head of the overall rankings for the first time in the world’s toughest rally.

Monster Energy Honda Team buddy Paulo Gonçalves continues to improve in the 2019 edition of the Dakar after a spleen operation just a month ago. The Portuguese rider finished with the sixth fastest time of the day and lies in eighth in the general standings. Kevin Benavides occupied ninth place at the finish, one spot behind team-mate Nacho Cornejo, with the Argentine is sixth place overall.

Riders then travelled to the Moquegua camp where they can rest and prepare the second leg of the marathon stage. The bikers will, however, be left to their own devices as no outside mechanical assistance is permitted. Instead any technical help will have to wait until the close of tomorrow’s stage back at the Arequipa bivouac. The fifth stage will add a total of 776 kilometres to the 1109 disputed so far and will include 345 kilometres against the clock.

Source: HRC News

Stage 3 at Dakar 2019: Benavides takes second place overall after stage three. Barreda retires

A more-complicated-than-expected third stage of the 2019 Dakar served up a mixed-bag result for Monster Energy Honda Team: Kevin Benavides gave himself a birthday present by climbing the leader board to second overall spot on the same day that team-mate Joan Barreda was forced to abandon the race.

It was double congratulations for Kevin Benavides who was wished happy returns as he headed out from the San Juan de Marcona bivouac on his birthday this morning and again after an excellent stage performance by Argentinean rider when he arrived back. Monster Energy Honda Team’s Benavides had been in the running for the stage victory, but had to settle for third place on the day, 2’37 behind the stage winner. Benavides thus moves up the general rankings to find himself rubbing shoulders with rally’s top guns.

The agenda of the day saw riders set out from the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona to start the first special of the day five kilometres later. The timed section concluded some 264 kilometres later followed by a short two-kilometre liaison section which brought the riders to a second 65-kilometre special. Before arriving back at the camp in Arequipa, it was back in the saddle for a 461-kilometre jaunt to take the mileage to a whopping 800 kilometres.

It proved to be a tough physical test for Paulo Gonçalves who held a swift pace to place a fine sixth on the day. Brabec suffered the setback of being forced to open the track which led to a twelfth place finish.

In stark contrast to Benavides’ excellent stage, Joan Barreda had to make a premature exit from the 2019 Dakar. The Spaniard came across a low visibility foggy and rocky area whilst opening the track, lost control of the bike which went into a slide down a ravine which it proved impossible to escape from. Barreda’s Dakar had ended at kilometre 143. The rider from Castellón’s final score-sheet reads: one stage victory on the opening day, taking the Dakar stage victory tally to 23 and two days at the head of the overall rankings.

Today brings the first leg of the marathon stage. Competitors can look forward to 352 kilometres of special out of a total route of 511 km before the entourage makes it back to the camp in Moquegua, where riders will be left without the possibility of outside mechanical assistance unless it be from fellow team-mates. For assistance riders will have to wait until the bivouac in Arequipa.