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Gonçalves and Benavides on the podium in the second stage | Latest

Paulo Gonçalves and Kevin Benavides both posted podium finishes at the end of a lengthy special stage on day two of the Sealine Qatar as the first differences in the field begin to emerge.

It was a tough day out for the Monster Energy Honda Team riders who had to face a long, gruelling slog through the Qatari desert. With more than 330 kilometres of complicated special stage to face, it turned out to be a day for the more proficient navigators of the field. Paulo Gonçalves and Kevin Benavides set off this morning amid the first half of the starting order, which had been decided in yesterday’s Super Special stage. The duo managed to keep a strong pace over the entire course of the day.

Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves had a trouble-free stage aboard the Honda CRF450 RALLY on a day that left very little margin for error. Paulo posted the day’s second best time and now lies in second place in the general standings too.

“The first full stage of the Qatar Rally had a first part with a lot of stony track and a final part with 40 kilometres of dunes,” Said Paulo Goncalves. “I think that I did quite well as the navigation was really difficult and as a consequence I decided to take things a bit easier in order to not make any mistakes. It went well and later I was able to pick the speed up a bit. I’m very happy and now let’s start the preparations for the stage tomorrow.”

Monster Energy Honda Team companion, Argentinean Kevin Benavides, maintained a similar rhythm to his Portuguese team-mate to finish the special a minute and a half behind.

I’m happy. I started out well with some great sensations in my hand. At kilometre 50 I stopped to sort out some minor issue, but was able to continue and push hard right up until the end,” said Benavides. “The stage was really tough for the navigation, with rocky track and some dunes in the final section. I enjoyed it a lot and finished in third place overall. Tomorrow I will have to push hard.

Tomorrow, Thursday, sees the longest day of the competition. The odometer will be signalling 503 kilometres by the close of the day, which will include some 353 km against the clock.