Rallye

Quintanilla Wins Final Stage as Barreda Takes the 2018 Merzouga Rally Win

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80 riders headed into the desert in a motocross style start for the final stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally. Credit: RallyZone - Edoardo Bauer
Defending champion Pablo Quintanilla has topped the fifth and final stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally to secure a solid third overall in the event‰Ûªs final overall standings while Joan Barreda did enough to claim the overall victory.

Kevin Benavides was second across the line giving the Monster Energy Honda rider second overall, just under four minutes adrift of team-mate and rally winner Joan Barreda who was fifth on the final stage. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Toby Price was third on stage. Quintanilla's stage win elevated him to third overall in the final standings.

It was triumphant ending for the Monster Energy Honda Team in Morocco with Barreda winning, and Benavides, the runner-up, along the way winning five or the six stages disputed.

"I am very happy to be back winning races again, especially because we can now forget about a year of injuries," Barreda said, "There is still work to do to get back to 100% physically and be able to ride my way, without pain. That‰Ûªs 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.
Monster Energy Honda Team's Joan Barreda took the overall win ahead of team-mate Kevin Benavides. Credit: Charly Lopez.
For final stage winner Pablo Quintanilla it was a satisfying way to end his 2018 Merzouga Rally.

‰ÛÏToday was a really fun stage," Quintanilla said. "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," he continued. "Overall, I‰Ûªm 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.‰Û
Pablo Quintanilla declared that he was satisfied with third place overall after claiming the final stage win to break the Honda domination. Credit: Marcin Kin.
Argentine Kevin Benavides reached the finish line on the final day conceding a mere three seconds to Quintanilla.

"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," Benavides declared. "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.
Kevin Benavides (2) won three of the six stages but fell short of team-mate Joan Barreda by six minutes and had to settle for second overall.
Unhappy after the decision by the organisers of the rally to scrap the final waypoints of Thursday‰Ûªs stage four, Toby 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.

Yesterday‰Ûªs decision to disregard the final waypoints of the stage relegated Price to sixth place in the overall standings. Despite his superb performance on tod ay‰Ûªs stage, it simply wasn‰Ûªt enough to regain a podium position. Although disappointed, the 2016 Dakar Champion was still positive about his, and the team‰Ûªs, performance on 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," the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider explained.

"It was really good fun and I enjoyed the ride. I‰Ûªm still a little upset about the outcome of yesterday‰Ûªs stage and I don‰Ûªt believe the final results tell the true story of the rally," he added, "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‰Ûªm 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.‰Û
Toby Price was a bit happier today with third overall on the final stage but was still dissapointed with the previous days controversy. Credit: Marcin Kin
Remaining strong and consistent throughout the week-long event in the dunes of Morocco, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider Franco Caimi earned a highly positive fourth place overall result.

"This year's Merzouga Rally has been quite an adventure and I am really happy to wrap it up with fourth in the overall," Caimi said. "Thinking about all the hours I've spent on my bike these last few days and all the small mistakes I could have avoided, I believe I could have gone even higher in the final standings but I can't really complain.

"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. Learning from the small details, everything was even better organised within our team and this was a massive help in the long stages."
American Ricky Brabec completed a successful rally, finishing in fifth overall to give the Monster Energy Honda Team three out of the top five finishing positions.
American Ricky Brabec completed a successful rally, finishing in fifth overall to give the Monster Energy Honda Team three out of the top five finishing positions.

"It‰Ûªs the final stage of an eventful rally which had some highs and lows," Brabec said. "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‰Ûªs awesome and a confidence booster. I‰Ûªm not totally happy with the overall result, but I‰Ûªm pleased with the individual stages. Thanks to all."
Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider Franco Caimi was a quite acheiver of the rally claiming the fourth overall placing.
Merzouga Rally 2018 - Stage 5 Results
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 Jos̩ 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 MartÌ_n 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
Monster Energy Honda Team Honda had the largest representation and delivered with five of the six stage wine as well as the 1-2 overall.
Final standings Merzouga Rally 2018
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 Jos̩ 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 MartÌ_n 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

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