The Monster Energy Honda Team has been forced to make a late change to their line-up after Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves was ruled out of the event by injury.
Gonçalves was injured in training a few weeks before the scheduled departure to Lima for the start of the rally, and despite medical attention on his right shoulder and left knee, he has had to concede defeat in his target of returning to the Dakar in 2018, and he will be replaced by Chilean rider José Ignacio Cornejo, the 2016 FIM Junior World Cross-Country Rallies Champion.
“As a result of a minor incident in a training session I have an injury that prevents me from running this Dakar with all the full guarantees necessary,” said a disappointed Gonçalves.
“Now I will try to recover as fast as possible so I can return to racing as soon as possible.”
The full line-up for Honda will be led by Joan Barreda, who is one of the favourites for the event, with the Japanese manufacturer looking to deny KTM a seventeenth consecutive bikes class victory with a five-prong attack with their CRF450 RALLY bikes.
“I am very happy and excited to start the Dakar,” said Barreda. “After the last months’ work, the countdown to be here has been positive.
“We will see this first week, if we can adapt to the pace and the difficult navigation to see if we can position ourselves well for the race.”
Kevin Benavides will line up alongside Barreda, and has had a strong 2017 that included a victory in the Desafío Ruta 40, while Ricky Brabec is also back for another shot after taking a first Dakar stage victory in 2017. The final spot in the team is taken by the reliable Michael Metge, with Team Manager Raul Castells believing they have a strong line-up to fight for honours.
“With the scrutineering we have reached the most important moment in the year: the start of the Dakar, the greatest challenge of the Monster Energy Honda Team,” said Castells.
“After all the hard work done during the season, we now just have to wait for the start of the race. I am convinced of the possibilities of our riders and also that we will be able to support them to the maximum to try to get the best results possible.”