Stage three of the 2018 Rally du Maroc marked the first half of the event’s marathon stage. A short five-kilometre liaison led riders into a 275-kilometre timed special. Comprising a mixture of fast tracks, sand dunes and dry salt lakes, the stage challenged competitors’ navigation skills and stamina to the maximum. Riders will camp out overnight in a temporary bivouac and receive no outside assistance from their teams, only their teammates can help should any maintenance be needed to their machines.
Following his tough Stage Two, Sam Sunderland was the 21st rider into Sunday’s stage. Using his skill and experience to successfully navigate the route, the 2017 Dakar champion was able to push hard on the mixed terrain and gain valuable time on the riders ahead. Crossing the line over one and a half minutes ahead of the second placed rider to take the stage win, Sunderland now moves up to 12th in the provisional overall standings.
Winner of the previous stage, Matthias Walkner led the riders away from the bivouac this morning with the aim of staying in front of the chasing pack. Navigating well throughout the 275 kilometres, the Austrian rider was first to make the finish but would ultimately lose out on the stage win to the chasing Sunderland. Nevertheless, his runner-up position was enough for Walkner to take the lead in the standings, over five minutes ahead of Toby Price.
The third stage caused some major changes in the overall standings, although Monster Energy Honda Team’s American rider Ricky Brabec remains in third place in the table.
It was another day of arduous navigating for the competitors of the Morocco Rally, with the action once again taking place in the Erg Chebbi region. The stage included the longest timed special of the rally at 305 kilometres against the clock. Ricky Brabec once again shone as Monster Energy Honda Team’s fastest protagonist.
Despite not having the most confident start and making some minor mistakes, Ricky managed to get a grip and get back on the right track. The American kept up a storming pace that saw him erase some of the time dropped in the earlier parts of the stage. The rider astride the Honda CRF450 RALLY clocked the day’s third fastest time.
Ricky Brabec: “The first stage of the marathon started out rough for me. I had a really bad feeling right away and I thought my day and results were finished. For me the first few notes were not clear I was trying to go faster to make up some time but doing this only makes the situation for navigating worse. I then relaxed and slowed down a bit to get the correct navigation and eventually, later in the stage, I caught up with the front runners due to a mistake they had made. I’m very happy with the results and the goal is to finish the rally strongly and right now I feel like we are heading in the right direction.”
Pablo Quintanilla has put in yet another solid performance in the dunes of Africa, to claim a solid fourth place result on stage three of the 2018 Morocco Rally. Continuing to move up in the overall standings, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider is currently placed fifth in the event’s provisional overall classification with two stages to go
Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “The first part of the marathon stage has ended and both of our riders have safely made it to the overnight bivouac. So far, this rally has proven to be a tough challenge. Like most – if not all – competitors, Pablo and Andrew have made navigational mistakes these last few days. Pablo got lost twice on stage one and since then he is doing his best to recover the time lost. Getting third yesterday and then fourth today have helped him move up in the overall standings and we are all positive he will continue getting stronger. Pablo remains focused on his major goal of winning the World Championship. We still have two long stages to go and we will continue giving our best to make this happen. As for Andrew, we want to see him grow as a rally racer by gaining more experience. He too has made a few mistakes these last few days but I am happy to say Andrew has been making good progress. With the Dakar also in sight, it is crucial for our riders to stay safe and continue improving ahead of the event in January.”
Although riding well on Stage Three, a number of small navigation errors cost Price valuable minutes on the challenging stage. The Australian rider ultimately reached the finish in sixth place, seven minutes and 44 seconds down on Sunderland. With two stages left to race and Toby Price still in the hunt for the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title, KTM Rally Sport Manager Jordi Viladoms is extremely satisfied with the way the event is progressing.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Sport Manager: “We are really happy with how the race is going up to now, each rider has performed very well so we now need to keep focused for the remaining two stages. It’s clear that the guys are doing a really good job, they are opening the piste every day and still maintaining good positions, this is really encouraging. Matthias and Toby are doing very well, Sam is riding great but unfortunately had some bad luck on Stage Two with his wheel. If it wasn’t for that I believe he would be challenging for the rally lead, too. We have to keep the championship in mind as well as ensuring our riders make it to the finish safely. Overall, it has been a great rally so far.”
Paulo Gonçalves, on a mission to claw back some of the time from the adversaries who are ahead in the overall standings, went into a slide and fell from the bike. So as to ensure that he got himself and the bike back to the parc ferme in the middle of the Erg Chebbi without further physical or mechanical damage, the Portuguese rider was forced to reduce speed to a more prudent pace. The riders now spend the night in a camp amidst the dunes without being able to receive any mechanical assistance from the team.
Paolo Goncalves: “It was the first day of the Marathon and I had a good situation at the start that allowed me to recover some time in the classification but I had a fall that caused some pain in my hand and back. I was able to reach the end, but taking it cautiously and now we have to make up time to try to reach the end of the race. I’m glad it was nothing serious, no more than just a fall. We will try and finish the race which has just two days to go.”
Meanwhile Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo had a strong start in the stage aboard his Honda, although the tough navigation of the day almost got the better of the young Monster Energy Honda Team rider. Cornejo’s navigational doubts caused him to drop time before finally finishing ninth, although tomorrow the Chilean will get another shot at pulling back time from the riders ahead.
José Ignacio Cornejo: “We have finished the first part of the marathon stage, which started with some good feelings and nice sensations on the bike. It went well, but I made a couple of navigation mistakes in some confusing areas that made me drop several minutes. Anyway, I’m left with some good feelings as far as my riding goes. Tomorrow we will try to minimize the errors over the coming days.”
|1||SUNDERLAND Sam||GBR||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||03:53’25|
|2||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+1’38|
|3||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+1’55|
|4||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+5’04|
|5||CAIMI Franco||ARG||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+5’36|
|6||PRICE Toby||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+7’44|
|7||DE SOULTRAIT Xavier||FRA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+8’43|
|8||SVITKO Stefan||SLO||Slovnaft Team||KTM||+10’18|
|9||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+13’42|
|10||METGE Adrien||FRA||Sherco TVS Rally Factory||Sherco||+14’14|
|12||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+20’13|
|14||GONCALVES Paulo||POR||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+27’48|
|1||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||9:46’54|
|2||PRICE Toby||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+5’54|
|3||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+11’58|
|4||CAIMI Franco||ARG||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+25’06|
|5||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+26’45|
|6||DE SOULTRAIT Xavier||FRA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+31’27|
|7||GONCALVES Paulo||POR||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+39’23|
|8||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||Yamaha||+44’23|
|9||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+54’35|
|10||SHORT Andrew||USA||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+56’13|
Today’s fourth stage kicks off from the bivouac in the dunes of Merzouga and finishes at the bivouac in El Chergui, north of Erfoud. The stage includes 294 kilometres of special stage and a mere 23 km of link section.