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Ten weeks after the Dakar Rally, Monster Energy Honda Team returns to face the 2017 season due to culminate with the Dakar 2018.

The Monster Energy Honda Team, almost in its entirety, will kick off the 2017 campaign next week with the same strategy used last season: while one part of the team is in action in Mexico, the other riders will be simultaneously competing in the World Championship in the Middle East.

Monster Energy Honda Team’s American rider Ricky Brabec is poised to participate in the Sonora Rally in México, a four-day event where riders will have to tackle nearly 1000 kilometres of racing. The Californian currently leads the American Hare & Hound competition after having completed the event’s first two rounds. Brabec, the current champion, will face the Sonora well-armed with the Honda CRF450 RALLY and accompanying roadbook. The race gets underway from Puerto Peñasco on Tuesday 21st March.

Team-mate Joan Barreda, who was in sizzling form during the Dakar, was also scheduled to line up for the event, but the Spaniard was injured while training before the race, requiring surgery to his right collarbone and will now miss the action. Barreda should be back in competition in less than a month.

“It is time for the Monster Energy Honda team to get back into racing after the Dakar 2017, says team general manager Martino Bianchi. The Sonora Rally in Mexico will be quite important to continue our program of testing and the heavy sand and dunes of the course will be quite demanding and interesting for all participants. In a couple of week’s time we will also start the first race of the FIM World Championship Cross Country Rally, where we can see Kevin Benavides and Paulo Gonçalves in action. For Kevin this will be the first race back after the injury, an important test to check the state of his hand. For Paulo, the Cross Country Rally races are always interesting and it’s useful too in order to maintain the level of fitness of the competitors.”

Benavides and Gonçalves in Abu Dhabi

Argentine Kevin Benavides (above) is all set to start the season after injury prevented him joining the Dakar Rally in January. The rider from Salta had an accident in Chile a fortnight before the 2017 Dakar Rally and missed the event entirely. Benavides underwent an operation involving the internal fixation of various right-hand fractures (osteosynthesis) and Kirchner wires. After two months recovering in a cast, Kevin began rehabilitation and physiotherapy in an attempt to regain full movement of the joints. Early in March, Benavides was back in the saddle of the Honda CRF450 Rally and back in training for what will be his first shot at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which takes place from 1st to 7th of April.

Alongside Kevin Benavides in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will be Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves – sixth place overall finisher in the Dakar this year – who will also participate in each round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. The Portuguese rider claimed the title of the 2013 edition of the World Championship, finished runner-up in 2014 and took the bronze medal in 2015.