Mer­zouga Rally

Honda takes top hon­ours at Mini-Dakar

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As it has been since its start in 2010, the 2018 edi­tion of the Mer­zouga rally, too, turned out to be the ideal train­ing ground for com­peti­tors with the gru­elling Dakar in their dreams. Run by ASO, the same guys who or­gan­ise the Dakar, the event takes place in the Erg Chebbi desert in Morocco and has all the in­gre­di­ents of the Dakar, with long stints of rid­ing per day, ex­treme tem­per­a­tures and lots of desert sand!

It at­tracts ama­teur rid­ers, look­ing to get their first taste of desert rac­ing, as well as sea­soned rac­ers want­ing to stay sharp for the next year's Dakar. The PRO cat­e­gory is for the lat­ter, while the EX­PERT cat­e­gory for am­a­teurs fol­lows a route course which is 75 per cent of the to­tal. It also in­cludes a marathon stage spread over two legs.

Edo Mossi, the cre­ator of the Afriquia Mer­zouga Rally, holds cour­ses in the evening af­ter each stage, with the goal of help­ing ev­ery­one be­come a bet­ter rally raid racer. A to­tal of 156 rid­ers, driv­ers and co-driv­ers took part, out of which 76 were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Mer­zouga Rally in the Mo­roc­can desert for the first time.

The top teams were present - Honda, KTM, Sherco and Hero. Honda aced 4 out of the 5 stages. Joan Barreda, who re­tired with win­ning chances in the clos­ing stages of the Dakar due a wrist in­jury, worked through the pain of a re­cent wrist surgery to take vic­tory in the end. His team­mate, Kevin Be­na­vides, placed se­cond while Pablo Quin­tanilla, of Husq­varna Rac­ing, fin­ished third.

JOAN BARREDA RODE THROUGH THE PAIN OF A RE­CENT WRIST SURGERY TO TAKE VIC­TORY AT THE END OF THE GRU­ELLING RALLY

Quan­tanilla also had to brave a knee in­jury from a col­li­sion with Barreda on stage 4, to come out with the fastest time on the fi­nal stage. Yamaha rider Franco Caimi fin­ished fourth.

From team Sherco TVS, rider Joan Pe­drero fin­ished in sev­enth, while Du­p­lessis Diego Martin, Vanni Cominotto and Lorenzo San­tolino fin­ished in po­si­tions 11, 21 and 31 re­spec­tively. From Hero Mo­toS­ports, star In­dian-rider CS San­tosh placed an im­pres­sive 19th, de­spite re­cent in­juries sus­tained at Desert Storm, while Oriol Mena placed 15th. In the quad cat­e­gory, Axel Dutrie, Jeremy Forestier and An­tonie Vitse made up the top steps of the podium.

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