What better way to celebrate Honda’s return to Rally than Helder Rodrigues’ victory in the first stage of the Morocco Rally with TEAM HRC.
In his debut on the CRF 450 RALLY the Portuguese Helder Rodrigues won the 271 kilometre-long stage ahead of Marc Coma and Cyril Despres.
It was a very positive start for the whole TEAM HRC with Brit Sam Sunderland finishing in the top 10, despite a crash in the dust at km 138 . Brazilian Felipe Zanol, in his debut in an African race, focused on gaining more experience with the navigation with cap, finishing 12th. Argentinian Javier Pizzolito and American Johnny Campbell rode consistently and despite some navigation mistakes finished in 15th and 16th positions.
The Stage. Liaison: 17 kms – selective sector: 271 kms – liaison: 25 kms
The first of the 6 stages of the Morocco Rally was really a warm up with riders tackling all kinds of terrains: fasttracks, dunes and rocky paths. The first part of the stage was very fast, rocky and quite dangerous with many points signalled with “danger 3”. The track took the competitors on a large plateau followed by a steep descent into a canyon, before crossing the Erg. After the service in Merzouga the riders continued on a fast and rocky track till the end of the stage, located near Erfourd, the base of the bivouac for the first 2 days.
Helder Rodrigues, SS1 1st: “I’m very happy with this result, winning the first stage in my first race with a new machine and a new team is a great satisfaction. This is just the first day but it’s nice to start on top. The CRF 450 RALLY is working well, we have a very good base and this race is also good for testing before the Dakar, which is our target. Today it was a good stage with a diversified terrain. I rode with Coma and Despres, we were very close and finally I won”.
Sam Sunderland, SS1 10th: “There was a lot of dust and there were many points where I couldn’t see. Before the refuelling I was behind Duclos and I couldn’t see anything because of the dust, then when I could see a bit better there was a sharp turn and I crashed. I did all the second half of the stage without a road book, I think I also damaged the rear suspension. My body hurts now, but I look forward to next stage tomorrow”.
Felipe Zanol, SS1 12th: “It was my first race in Africa and my priority today was to adapt to the navigation with the cap, because it’s very different from what we are used to in Brazil. I struggled a bit with the navigation especially in the dunes, after the first 100 kms. Despite some navigation mistakes, I’m very satisfied with the machine, my Honda works very well. Today I preferred to ride consistently, tomorrow I will start to push more”.
Javier Pizzolito, SS1 15th: “It was a nice stage, I enjoyed it a lot. My priority was to get into the rhythm and to adapt to the new machine. Starting 25th there was a lot of dust and despite a small crash I recovered some positions. In general I’m satisfied with today’s first stage, the scenery here is amazing and the atmosphere in the team is really good”.
Johnny Campbell, SS1 16th: “The track today was very fast, let’s say 90% very fast track and 10% off track in the dunes. There was a lot of rocks and dust but in general it was ok. This is the first major race I have competed in since 2001 so it takes me a little time to get into the race rhythm again, in terms of speed and intensity, while physically I’m ok. I made some navigation mistakes and I lost 10 minutes before arriving at the service. Then I regrouped and finished 16th. The CRF 450 RALLY is working really well, it has a strong power and I look forward to the next stage”.
Katsumi Yamazaki, TEAM HRC large Project Leader: “I’m very happy with todays’ result, the machine is working very well and the riders did a good job. I’m very satisfied with Helder’s result, this is the first win for us and it’s a very good start. Today it was a very fast stage, the average speed was very high for a rally race. Sam crashed because of the dust, fortunately without serious consequences. Felipe did a good job, riding consistently and gaining experience with the navigation. Also Javier and Johnny rode consistently. We are collecting very useful information to get the bike ready for the Dakar. We started with a good base but we will continue to work to improve it”.
Results of the 1st Stage (Unofficial)
1- #3 Helder Rodrigues (PRT) 2h59min50s – HONDA
2- #1 Marc Coma (ESP) 3h01min02s – KTM
3- #2 Cyril Despres (FR) 3h02min10s – KTM
4- #8 Joan Barreda (ES) 3h10min31s – Husqvarna
5- #5 Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) 3h13min26s – Husqvarna
10- #17 Sam Sunderland (UK) 3h21min03s – HONDA
12- #11 Felipe Zanol (BRA) 3h23min55s – HONDA
15- #25 Javier Pizzolito (ARG) 3h31min04s – HONDA
16- #22 Johnny Campbell (USA) 3h32min28s – HONDA