A triumphant ending for Monster Energy Honda Team in Morocco. The Merzouga Rally closes with a final stage around Erg Chebbi with two of the Honda riders clinching the top prizes. Barreda, the winner, and Benavides, the runner-up, won five or the six stages disputed.

The final special of the Merzouga Rally, at just over 40 kilometers long, was a spectacular one, with one hundred riders making a mass line-start. Argentine 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 leaderboard. 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.merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team

Meanwhile American Ricky Brabec completed a successful rally, finishing in the fifth position and young Chilean prospect José Ignacio Cornejo sealed an eighth final place, crossing the line hot on the heels of Brabec in this final stage. Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves, growing ever stronger, followed his rivals, yet in spite of finishing among the leading pack, was unable to improve on his overall twelfth position.

Monster Energy Honda Team will be back in competition when they tackle the Atacama Rally from August 11th to 19th for the third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rally World Championship.

Kevin Benavides

STAGE: 2nd – FINAL: 2nd

” 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.”

Paulo Goncalves

STAGE: 10th – FINAL: 12ve

” It was a difficult race for me. The first day I lost 45 minutes, in addition to falling and lost any options for doing better. Physically I didn’t feel that good and I preferred to ride at a measured pace to not make any mistakes and aggravate the injuries that I am still recovering from. Today was a beautiful stage, with a fast pace out in the dunes. I felt pretty good, especially with the bike, which has worked perfectly on all types of terrain. Congratulations to our team-mates who finished first and second in the race.”

Joan Barreda

STAGE: 5th – FINAL: 1st

” 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.”

Ricky Brabec

STAGE: 8th – FINAL: 5th

” It’s the final stage of an eventful rally which had some highs and lows. The rally started off well with a great first stage, and then there were some good ones up until the fourth stage. That was where many people all had the same problems with the roadbook. I managed, like some of the others, to make it through to the end with a few mistakes; but this is rallying where everyone makes a few errors. I lost time that day, but in the final stage I was able to make it up and ended up finishing just forty seconds off the podium. For me, that’s awesome and a confidence booster. I’m not totally happy with the overall result, but I’m pleased with the individual stages. Thanks to all.”

José Ignacio Cornejo

STAGE: 6th – FINAL: 8th

” In this final stage we finished well and I was able to put yesterday’s bad stage behind me. I made a few mistakes. In general, it was a good rally, we improved the speed race by race and so we keep moving up positions as the season goes on. It’s getting better and better and I’m happy about that.”

Raul Castells

Monster Energy Honda Team Manager

” We are very happy with an outcome that could hardly have been better here at the Merzouga Rally, with such a high level of participation. First and second places are incredible. We are positively surprised by the powerful return of Joan Barreda, whom we congratulate for the victory and who battled hard in each stage. Likewise, we also congratulate Kevin Benavides, who has clinched second place winning three specials. We have seen the high level of riding from our team and although some had some issues with the navigation, they have fought hard to be at the top. Navigation has been an important factor and was very difficult in all the stages. It is very important to train and prepare the season well. We are pleased and we want to congratulate the whole team for their effort and results. We will continue to strive to achieve the best results.”merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team-03 merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team-02 merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team-06 merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team-05 merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-monster-energy-honda-team-04 merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage



Determined to wrap up his week-long adventure in Morocco on a high, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla has topped the fifth and final stage of the Merzouga Rally to secure a solid third overall in the event’s final overall standings. Continuing to make progress Andrew Short has claimed a spot inside the top 10 in the overall. 

Featuring a mass, motocross-style start in the dunes of the Merzouga Desert, the fifth and final stage of the event saw Pablo Quintanilla put in a dominant performance. Posting the fastest time of the day, the Chilean rally star solidified his strong third position in the overall standings. 

Putting in his best individual stage performance Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Andrew Short crossed the line in the eighth position. Wrapping up the Merzouga Rally 10th in the overall, the American is content with the progress he made during the week in Morocco. 

The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team will return to action in the third round of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the Atacama Rally in Chile on August 11/19. 
merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-rockstar-energy-husqvarna-factory-racing-pablo-quintanillaPablo Quintanilla“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 kilometers 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.” 
merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-rockstar-energy-husqvarna-factory-racing-andrew-shortAndrew Short: “I really enjoyed this week in Morocco. Especially this last day was really fun, bringing back memories from my days racing motocross. Before the flag dropped the nerves were there and I was maybe a bit late off the start. It was a good experience racing alongside the fastest guys in the dunes and being able to see their pace. The adrenaline kicked in and I had some really good fun. Overall, the week has been great for me. I enjoy the atmosphere in rally racing and I feel I am improving, getting closer to the top guys. I might still have a long way to go but I understand it needs to be done step-by-step. This week was a positive step in the right direction.” 

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing


The fifth and final stage of the Merzouga Rally comprised a short 50km timed special through the dunes of the Chebbi erg. With 80 riders setting off together motocross style it took a few kilometers for the pack to spread out. Despite being shorter than the others on the rally, stage five still threw up some challenges. 

Unhappy after the decision by the organizers of the rally to scrap the final waypoints of Thursday’s stage four, Toby Price went into today’s 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 the third position.

Yesterday’s decision to disregard the final waypoints of the stage relegated Toby to sixth place in the overall standings. Despite his superb performance on today’s stage, it simply wasn’t enough to regain a podium position. Although disappointed, the 2016 Dakar Champion was still positive about his, and the team’s, performance on the rally. merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-red-bull-ktm-factory-racing-toby-priceToby Price: “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 kilometers 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 in the run-up to the Dakar.” 

Laia Sanz also suffered from yesterday’s decision. The Spaniard had ridden an almost flawless stage finishing as fifth fastest. By scrapping the final waypoints, Laia was relegated to 14th at the end of the day. Relishing the chance to race with the front-runners on today’s short sprint Laia set off well, keeping up with the leaders. Unfortunately, a small crash ended up costing the multiple enduro world champion even more time when another rider collided with her fallen bike. Crossing the line in 30th position, Laia was still upbeat about her performance. 
merzouga-rally-2018-final-stage-red-bull-ktm-factory-racing-laia-sanzLaia Sanz: “I enjoyed today at first, it was good fun to race with everyone. I thought if I could tag on to some of the faster guys I would be able to keep to their pace. I made a small mistake on one of the dunes but ended up losing more time when a rider behind collided with me when I was picking up the bike – I wasn’t able to catch up after that. The rally has not been so good for me, my results have not been quite what I wanted for various reasons. On the plus side, we were able to do a lot of constructive testing and we’ll go into the next rally even stronger now.”

 Merzouga Rally 2018 – Stage 5 results 

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 QUINTANILLA Pablo   CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna 38’12
2 BENAVIDES Kevin   ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’03
3 PRICE Toby   AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +0’06
4 SANTOLINO Lorenzo   SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +0’24
5 BARREDA Joan   SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’26
6 CORNEJO José Ignacio   CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’42
7 CAIMI Franco   ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +0’42
8 BRABEC Ricky   USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’43
9 SHORT Andrew   USA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +0’44
10 GONCALVES Paulo   POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’56
11 CORREIA Luis   POR Team Correia Yamaha +1’31
12 DUPLESSIS Martín   ARG Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +2’58
13 MENA Oriol   SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +3’00
14 CERUTTI Jacopo   ITA Moto Racing Group – MRG Husqvarna +3’00
15 PEDRERO Joan   SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +3’01
Merzouga Rally 2018 – Final Standings.
Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 BARREDA Joan   SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 13:28’19
2 BENAVIDES Kevin   ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +6’10
3 QUINTANILLA Pablo   CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +11’25
4 CAIMI Franco   ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +18’49
5 BRABEC Ricky   USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +20’04
6 PRICE Toby   AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +21’04
7 PEDRERO Joan   SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +29’18
8 CORNEJO José Ignacio   CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +42’37
9 SVITKO Stefan   SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +53’00
10 SHORT Andrew   USA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +1:01’25
11 DUPLESSIS Martín   ARG Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +1:02’28
12 GONCALVES Paulo   POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +1:09’07
13 BOTTURI Alessandro   ITA Botturi Racing Yamaha +1:17’32
14 SANZ Laia   SPA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +1:55’00
15 MENA Oriol   SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +2:24’49