Team HRC’s Portuguese ace Paulo Goncalves has clinched overall victory in the Desafío Ruta 40. Goncalves and the other Honda CRF450 RALLY riders commanded the tough, lengthy and demanding rally throughout, winning four of the five stages.
It was a successful outing for Team HRC at the Desafío Ruta 40, the first of the Dakar Series rallies to be disputed in South America. Paulo Goncalves took up the torch from team-mate Javier Pizzolito – winner both last year and in 2011 – who finished behind Paulo in the runner-up slot. American Ricky Brabec, who had previously performed valiantly on his Team HRC debut in Abu Dhabi, saw his podium chances dashed after some navigational instrument hitches and had to be content with a fourth final place.
Paulo Goncalves had clinched the first stage victory with an excellent Team HRC one-two alongside Joan Barreda and held on to the leadership throughout the rest of the Ruta 40. Javier Pizzolito, under the auspices of Honda and Team HRC, finished the first stage in fourth place and Ricky Brabec fifth. The second day of racing saw the Honda squad take second, third and fourth positions. But the hard work and team-work was to come into fruition at the third stage with a Honda CRF450 RALLY podium lock-out.
The Desafío Ruta 40 proved to be a worthy workbench to test out riders and continue to set up the machines which look likely to feature in the forthcoming Rally Dakar 2016.
In spite of showing ferocious speed and technical finesse, Joan Barreda was forced to pull out after sustaining a knee injury in a heavy fall in the penultimate stage. After checks at the Fiambala hospital, the rider was diagnosed with a dislocated right knee.
Paulo Gonclaves – The final result has been a really good one and I’m really pleased with the victory and the work that Team HRC has done. I started with a win and it was important to get an advantage and hang on to the leadership of the race. It was a race with a lot of kilometres, a lot of navigation and riding, but it all worked out really well. Additionally, we were able to test the bike in race conditions very similar to those that we will find in the next edition of the Dakar.
It’s a pity about Joan’s fall, but hopefully he’ll be giving it some throttle again on a bike very soon. Ricky’s performance should be pointed out too, who would have been on the final podium had it not been for the penalisation.
Ricky Brabec – I’m here at the Ruta 40 rally, the second rally ever in my life. It was actually a great one for me. A lot of navigation, a lot more than in Dubai. Out here there were more objects that you could take reference from, knowing where you are at all times. I’ve struggled the entire rally with fuel situations but that’s something to look past. The roadbook hadn’t worked all week. Today, in the final stage it actually worked well, so that was a little bit easier to navigate with, rather than doing it manually. Here, I heard that it’s more like the Dakar. I actually like it out here. Hopefully I can race the Dakar and be good there. I almost had a shot at the podium. I think a few more rallies and I’ll get this down. I have the speed, running up there with the faster guys; I just need to navigate a bit quicker. I can’t thank the team enough for helping me out, giving me a bike and Joan and Paulo for giving me pointers throughout the entire race.
Javier Pizzolito – We are really pleased with all the hard work done all week at the Desafío Ruta 40 by Team HRC and MEC. Luckily, we have have finished with a great podium, with the CRF450 RALLY in first and second positions. I’m happy with the experience and it’s been an important race for developing the bikes, for fine-tuning the team and we will be looking forward to tackling the rest of the calendar with a lot of optimism.