Finally after several days of
gruelling ride across the Moroccan desert, the Afriquia Merzouga Rally saw
Kevin Benavides (Honda) winning the rally followed by Stefan Svitko (KTM), second
and Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha), third. It was a strong emotional moments for
all the competitors, from the first of the Pro rider to the last of the
amateurs. With this victory, the Argentinean also won a free registration for
the next Dakar.
The Afriquia Merzouga Rally
concluded with the final stage held near the town of Erfoud. The riders had to
complete a double loop in Motocross-style before turning off the engines after
1,500 demanding kilometres through the Moroccan desert.
The “motocross style” start
with one line of riders per category gave an extra boost of adrenaline to the
fifth and final day of the rally: two loops of 37 km at the Yasmina dry lake
for a 100% off road stage in the big dunes of Erg Chebbi and Erg Merzouga.
Wrapping up the sixth day of
competition in the dunes of Morocco in the best possible way, Adrien Van
Beveren crossed the finish line of the final stage having posted the absolute
fastest time for the day. With this stage victory solidifying his third
position in the overall standings, the Frenchman celebrated a career first
podium result in rally competition after leading the efforts of the Yamalube
Yamaha Official Rally Team at the seventh edition of the Merzouga Rally.
Meanwhile for the Hero
Motorsports Team Rally, Joaquim Rodrigues used all his skills as a former
Motocross specialist to place his Hero 450 in fifth place in the final 5th
stage. The Portuguese rookie finished his very first rally in ninth position
overall - a great result for a rider who has never competed in such difficult
circumstances. His Indian team-mate CS Santosh has raced in Africa before, but
never the Merzouga. Santosh ended his week in the top twenty overall and the
final stage in 22nd.
"Today was like a
Motocross race in the dunes," Rodrigues said. "It was my first time
and a lot of fun. I was a bit scared because I can´t yet read the dunes that
well, but I had a decent start and then a big battle with the top guys
developed. I pushed to the end and passed a guy in the last corner. Now I am
really happy to finish the rally and to take my Hero bike to the end," he
CS Santosh commented:
"The Merzouga is in the books. It was a very hard week, the navigation was
tough, the dunes were tough, so were the rocks and the heat. I´m happy to be
here at the finish. I learnt a lot of things that will help me build towards
the Dakar. Really glad to be safe and sound and to be involved in this exciting
project with such great people."
accomplished," said the team´s Managing Director Wolfgang Fischer. "A
new era has started for our team. It´s great both riders made it to the finish.
We are very happy to have come here with the recently formed Hero MotoSports
Team Rally.... Thanks to everyone involved and best regards to India,” he said.
Final standings after 5 stages
1. Kevin Benavides, ARG, Honda
2. Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM
3. Adrien van Beveren, FRA,
4. Gerard Farres Guell, SPA,
5. Helder Rodrigues, POR,
9. Joaquim Rodrigues, POR,
16. CS Santosh, IND, Hero
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