Barreda tops Merzouga Rally from Benavides & Quintanilla
Toby Price sixth overall after stage four countback
It was a triumphant ending for Honda in Morocco at the Merzouga Rally in 2018, which closed with a final stage around Erg Chebbi with Joan Barreda the winner, and Kevin Benavides runner-up, while Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla rounded out the podium.
The final special of the Merzouga Rally, at just over 40 kilometres long, was a spectacular one, with one hundred riders making a mass line-start. Joan Barreda kept his rivals in check all the way from the en masse start and cruised to overall victory in the 2018 Merzouga Rally with a sixth place finish on the day.
Joan Barreda – Overall P1
“I am very happy to be back winning races again, especially because we can now forget about a year of injuries. There is still work to do to get back to 100% physically and be able to ride my way, without pain. That’s the way I like to do it: return to the competition like that, have a great race and finish with a win. This will serve as great motivation to keep pushing and reach the highest level by the end of the year.”
Kevin Benavides reached the finish line conceding a mere three seconds to the final stage winner, Pablo Quintanilla. This guaranteed the rider second place on the overall leader board.
Kevin Benavides – Overall P2
“We finished the stage with Quintanilla which meant that I finished second overall. I go home very happy after winning three of the six stages. It was a very good race for me without any falls. The navigation mishaps were due to errors in the roadbook. I think I was never able to regain the time I lost on the first day, but I did well and battled hard every day to get a one-two for Honda. Congratulations to Joan and the entire Monster Energy Honda Team for the race.”
Determined to wrap up his week-long adventure in Morocco on a high, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla topped the fifth and final stage of the Rally to secure a solid third overall in the event’s final overall standings.
Pablo Quintanilla – Overall P3
“Today was a really fun stage. We had the motocross start and it was good to battle with the guys from start to finish. I got off to a good start but five or six kilometres into the stage I had a small crash that dropped me back a few positions. Then I had to push until the end and 10km before the finish I got the lead back and was the first to cross the finish line. It felt really nice to win a stage that way. Overall, I’m satisfied with my third position in the overall. This was a tough race with tricky navigation and to be on the podium is always good. We continue to gather experience and look ahead in the races to come.”
Remaining strong and consistent throughout the week-long event in the dunes of Morocco, Yamaha Official Rally Team rider Franco Caimi earned a highly positive fourth place overall result. Working hard during the last few months to further improve his speed and navigation, the rider from Argentina went head-to-head with the elite of international rally racers to eventually land less than eight minutes behind a top three result.
Franco Caimi – Overall P4
“This year’s Merzouga Rally has been quite an adventure and I am really happy to wrap it up with fourth in the overall. With the majority of top-level Dakar Rally riders racing this event it was a big learning experience for me. I felt good on my Yamaha from start to finish and, most importantly, we’ve made some big steps forward as a team and with me individually as a rally racer. The stage I enjoyed the most was the final one. We set off together in a motocross-styled start and I quickly managed to put myself in third. The stage was contested 100% in sand dunes and after an intense 40 minutes of racing I managed to bring my Yamaha home in a good position and secure fourth in the final standings. This week in Morocco we showed we’ve been making some steady progress and I hope it remains that way for the rest of the season.”
KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price came home in third place on the final stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally. Unhappy after the decision by the organisers of the rally to scrap the final waypoints of Thursday’s stage four, Price went into the final special with a point to prove. After making his way to the front of the group, the Australian put in a strong performance to eventually cross the line in third position for the stage.
The decision to disregard the final waypoints of Stage 4 relegated Toby to sixth place in the overall standings. Despite his performance, it simply wasn’t enough to regain a podium position. Although disappointed, the 2016 Dakar Champion was still positive about his performance in the rally.
“Today was a good stage with the mass-start. 80 bikes taking off at the same time is a little bit chaotic and it took a few kilometres for it all to settle down. It was really good fun and I enjoyed the ride. I’m still a little upset about the outcome of yesterday’s stage and I don’t believe the final results tell the true story of the rally. Nevertheless, I am here in one piece and we were able to test a lot of things on the bike and get some good training for the Dakar at the beginning of next year. I’m looking forward to the next rally now in the middle of the year and then we have a few more to contest on the run up to the Dakar.”
Provisional Results Stage Five – 2018 Merzouga Rally
Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 38:12
Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 38:15 +3 seconds
Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 38:18 +6 secs
Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 38:36 +24 secs
Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 38:38 +26 secs
Provisional Final Standings – 2018 Merzouga Rally
Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 13:28:19
Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 13:34:29 +6:10
Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 13:39:44 +11:25
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.