Rallye

Sam Sunderland wins the Merzouga Rally for Team HRC

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Sam Sunderland continues the Honda CRF450 RALLY success story, this time with a victory in the Merzouga Rally while his TEAM HRC team-mate HÌ©lder Rodrigues finished second.

It was a spectacular start to the two African rallies with the new Honda CRF450 RALLY taking two consecutive victories, having won nine of the twelve stages disputed.

Although it was just a week ago that Paulo Gon̤alves won the Morocco Rally and the World Championship, it was the turn today of young British rider Sam Sunderland in the Merzouga Rally. This, of course, was the final test before TEAM HRC heads out to Argentina to confront its next challenge with the Honda CRF450 RALLY, the famous Dakar Rally.

The final stage couldn‰Ûªt have been more spectacular as the participants headed out in line from Erfoud and rode just a 72 kilometre route through the Erg Rissani and Erg Chebbi dunes, where the race came to its close.

First across the line was Sunderland, who picked up his second stage win, as well as becoming the overall race winner, after holding onto the lead from the third stage.

"It‰Ûªs perfect," Sunderland enthused. "Just before the Dakar. It‰Ûªs nice for confidence. The week went really well, the bike was flawless, the team did really well. Everybody was working together for the same thing and in the end we won.

"We came first and second. I‰Ûªm really happy as it‰Ûªs been a long time since I raced. To finish like this is the best it can be, just before the Dakar.

"I‰Ûªve a lot of confidence now. We‰Ûªve just got to keep working. It has proved that I‰Ûªm moving in the right direction. The last two races we‰Ûªve come away with victory, it‰Ûªs really important for the team spirit. I‰Ûªm really happy to be winning," he added.
HÌ©lder Rodrigues made it a 1-2 for the Honda CRF450 Rally - Credit: Honda Racing
Not far behind was his TEAM HRC team-mate, Portuguese rider HÌ©lder Rodrigues, who took second place, and thus the double for the team in their first Merzouga Rally outing.

"I‰Ûªm happy I‰Ûªve finished second, but I won two stages, and Honda has won the race which is the important thing." Rodrigues explained. "The results are important, but also the teamwork.

"I rode well and I won two specials and the team has worked really well. The bikes running really well and we all come away more experienced. I‰Ûªm happy for the team result and for having come out here," he concluded.

TEAM HRC Dakar Project Leader Katsumi Yamazaki was pleased with the result but more importantly the great progress the team has made in the lead up to the big race.

"We finished the sixth stage out here in Merzouga, and it‰Ûªs been an extremely positive one for TEAM HRC. Sam Sunderland won today‰Ûªs stage and the overall standings and Helder Rodrigues finished second.

"It‰Ûªs perfect! We are ready for the Dakar." Yamazaki exclaimed.
The Honda HRC Rally team celebrate more success for their all new machine and Merzouga race winner Sam Sunderland - Credit: Honda Racing
Merzouga Rally Stage 6 Results:
1. Sam Sunderland 58'00 ENG HONDA TEAM HRC
2. Helder Rodrigues +00'05 PRT HONDA TEAM HRC
3. Gerard Farr̩s +02'50 ESP GAS GAS Gas Gas JVO Team
4. Arnold Brucy +03'38 FRA KTM KTM Brucy
5. Jordi Viladoms +05'03 ESP GAS GAS Gas Gas JVO Team
6. Henk Knuiman +05'05 HOL KTM KTM Knuiman
7. Cesare Zacchetti +07'24 ITA KTM Africa Dream
8. Antonio Gimeno +07'46 ESP KTM EnduroPro
9. Olivier Pain +07'50 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing
10. Andrea Mancini +07'58 ITA BETA Team Dirt Racing Beta

Merzouga Rally 2013 Final Results:
1 Sam Sunderland 13:41'31 ENG HONDA TEAM HRC
2 Helder Rodrigues +15'42 PRT HONDA TEAM HRC
3 Olivier Pain +37'21 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing
4 Jordi Viladoms +55'41 ESP GAS GAS Gas Gas JVO Team
5 Henk Knuiman +02:03'48 HOL KTM KTM Knuiman
6 Antonio Gimeno +02:16'37 ESP KTM EnduroPro
7 Pedro Bianchi +02:42'22 POR HUSQVARNA Bianchi Prata
8 Gerard Farr̩s +02:52'51 ESP GAS GAS Gas Gas JVO Team
9 Marc Guasch +02:58'44 ESP GAS GAS Gas Gas JVO Team
10 Andrea Mancini +03:26'46 ITA BETA Team Dirt Racing Beta

Top Image: Sam Sunderland on his way to winning the 2013 Merzouga Rally
Credit: Honda Racing

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