Monster Energy Honda Team holds strong at the head of the overall standings as the Desafío Ruta 40 arrives at its halfway point. Today was the turn of Paulo Gonçalves to win the stage, trading places at the top of the leader board with team-mate Kevin Benavides – fifth on the day – who drops to second overall.

Paulo Gonçalves takes the overall leadership from team-mate Kevin Benavides

Paulo Gonçalves has established himself as the new race leader of the Desafío Ruta 40. The Portuguese rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team performed notably in the Belén desert area, showing deft riding and navigation skills during the 300 kilometre special stage. The course featured many off-piste sand sections as well as some kilometres of dunes.

Gonçalves took the start some three minutes after team-mate Kevin Benavides in the third stage, whom he caught up close to kilometre 40 when the Argentinean found himself without a GPS signal. In a fine team effort, the pair managed to hold a swift pace together, enough to guarantee the win for the Portuguese ace and fifth place for the younger sidekick who succeeded in limiting the damage of having had to wait for his team-mate. In the general standings the duo swaps first and second position, with Paulo the new leader, 2’17” ahead of Kevin.

It was a stunning performance too for the rest of the Honda CRF450 RALLY crew, Ricky Brabec and Michael Metge both proving to be very nippy off-piste whilst displaying considerable navigating prowess too. Brabec scored the day’s third fastest time as Metge posted fourth just a minute off his team-mate. The entire Monster Energy Honda Team, who had grafted hard and long yesterday to have the bikes in tip-top condition for today, are now back at the bivouac poised to take up the action tomorrow.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) sees the fourth and penultimate stage of this gruelling Desafío Ruta 40, which heads out from Belén and finishes in Tafí del Valle, in the Tucumán province. In store are 300 kilometres of perplexing navigation, with some 220 kilometres of liaison sections. Only the truly tough will make it through such a punishing day’s racing which will, once again, feature some very trial-style terrain, dried river-beds and high-speed mountain tracks that reach altitudes of up to 3000 metres above sea-level.



Today we had another very difficult stage with 300 kilometres of off-piste including sandy river-beds where you could go quite fast. Then we had a few kilometres in the dunes, which were very soft and it was pretty complicated. I am very happy with the work today, as I caught up with Kevin at kilometre 40 and I ended up opening the track, arriving with very good pace and I even won the special. We must continue along this same line.

Ricky-Brabec-Monster-Energy-Honda-TeamRicky Brabec


Today was tough and it beat a lot of people up. The terrain was pretty rough. So, to be able to make up for yesterday, was awesome: we all have good starting positions for tomorrow. Overall on the day it was pretty rough with a lot of sand moguls. I just tried to ride the way I know how to when I’m at home – going off-piste is easier for me than going fast on these dangerous roads – so I felt more comfortable today in the off-piste vegetation. Hopefully we can carry the speed for next two days and end the rally well.



A difficult and long stage, almost all off-track and with some parts of camel grass, which was very physically demanding and far from easy. I pushed at first to try to pass a quad that was raising a lot of dust. When I achieved it I was able to really force the pace and enjoy a bike that is responding so well to these really demanding stages.



Source : HONDA HRC