Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) paid a high price for being the first man away on Tuesday after winning Monday’s stage and taking the overall lead in the rally. By the end of Tuesday that lead had turned into a deficit over over seven-minutes and a demotion to fourth place on the overall leader board.
“Today was a long day and maybe it wasn’t the day to open. We lost a bit of time but we still have a day to go and we’re seven minutes off first place. We can make a good push and maybe get onto the podium tomorrow: that will be the plan. It’s been good training ahead of the Dakar. We’ll keep our hopes up and push for one more day. Today I opened a large part of the day and we had the same track as the previous days, but with a lot of detours which made it very confusing. We will keep pushing tomorrow.”
A couple of minor navigational errors by Daniel Sanders on that Monday stage had resulted in a lowly – by his standards – 15th place finish. But there may not be a better way of bouncing back from a difficult day of rally racing than by winning the very next stage! That’s exactly what Daniel Sanders has done on the penultimate leg of the Rally Du Maroc overnight.
Picking up his pace throughout the incredibly technical special, Sanders delivered what is undoubtedly his best ride of the event so far and has moved up to third in the overall provisional classification.
“I got the win, which is sick! Today I didn’t make any major mistakes and with the tricky navigation, you really had to focus. For sure I went offline a few times but what was encouraging for me was that I got back on track quickly. The stage had a bit of everything today, which added to the challenge, and it seemed like every 20 minutes we were into something different whether it was sand, hardpack roads, or rocky sections. I’m now in a pretty good position overall and tomorrow I’ll lead out so I’m excited for the challenge and hope to end this rally with a strong result.”
Now faced with being the first rider to start the final day of racing, the Aussie is up for the challenge and excited about the prospect of completing another round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with a strong overall finish.
Matthias Walkner was second fastest on the fourth and penultimate stage. Coming in just 36-seconds behind stage winner Sanders, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider regained the provisional overall lead of the event.
Featuring the longest timed special of the event at a demanding 367.43 kilometers, stage four of the Rallye du Maroc proved to be another huge test of pace and navigational skill. Following a long liaison section, riders entered the special and were faced with a wide variety of terrain including fast, stony tracks, off-piste sections through the rocks, and an area of camel grass near the finish.
Playing catch-up on today’s stage, Matthias Walkner was the 12th rider to enter the special. Making the most of his opportunity to push and make time on the riders ahead, Matthias was immediately fast to the first checkpoint. Maintaining his focus through the varied terrain, the Austrian was able to move into the lead of the stage by the halfway point. Choosing to ease his pace towards the finish, to minimise any mistakes, the 2018 Dakar Champion ultimately claimed second to re-take the provisional rally lead.
“It was a super long day again today. I tried my best to push right from the start because on such a long stage like this you find the pace drops off a little by the end. I wanted to catch as many people ahead as I could. This event is always one of my favorites – the terrain here really suits me with its mix of dunes, and off-pistes, and fast tracks. It’s really good for my confidence too, and I knew I would be able to make up some time today and fight for the stage win. I go into tomorrow’s final day leading the rally and as the second rider into the special. Hopefully I can make it safely to the finish without any big mistakes and fight for a place on the podium.”
Tuesday proved to be a good day for Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla, the Chilean rode a solid stage and finished with the third best time of the day. In the outright standings Quintanilla is in second place, only 37-seconds behind Walkner.
“We finished the penultimate stage of the race and like almost every other day, it was a long and hard stage. I’m happy, I felt great, with a good pace and without any navigation mistakes and that’s very important for my confidence. I’m second in the general standings, just slightly behind the first. Tomorrow we will go out to do our best on this last day. There will be less than 200 kilometres and so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Joan Barreda finished fourth on Tuesday despite a heavy fall on a boulder. The rider from Castellón had been notching up fine times until that point. In the overalll standings, however, any podium chances had faded in Monday’s stage.
Setting a good pace right from the start, Toby Price fought his way up to fifth position in the first 100 kilometres of Tuesday’s special. A small error resulted in the Australian losing around three minutes to the leaders by the midway point. Caught by rally leader Walkner after the refueling stop, the two Red Bull KTM team-mates raced together from there to the finish. Claiming sixth on the stage, Price lies 14th overall in the rally standings after some difficulties earlier in the rally.
“Day four is done – just one stage to go now. I had a pretty decent day, I made a few little mistakes near the start, before the refueling, but after I didn’t have any major issues. Matthias caught me around kilometer 220 so I let him take the lead and just tucked in behind him to the finish. We kept to a good solid pace and was able to bring it home safely. I’m feeling good, looking forward to the last stage and ready to go.”
Maintaining his impressive speed and consistency through the technical fourth stage at the Rally du Maroc, Adrien Van Beveren opened a lot of Tuesday’s special. Despite the arduous task, the Frenchman brought his Yamaha WR450F Rally home just 10 minutes behind the overall stage winner for a strong eighth place finish. His solid performance on the penultimate day of racing edges him one step closer to securing an overall top-five result.
Adrien Van Beveren
“I would say that today was my best stage of the rally so far and I’m really pleased with my performance. On paper, it may not look like this, but after starting the stage fourth, I caught the leading riders, passed them, and then I opened the stage. It took some time to find a couple of the waypoints, which is normal when you’re the first rider, but overall, I’m really happy with my navigation and my pace today. It’s been a long stage and at the end I was still feeling really strong on my bike. So, overall it’s been a great day for me and I’m looking forward to the final stage tomorrow.”
Sam Sunderland was forced to withdraw from the stage due to illness.
Wednesday’s fifth and final stage offers no respite for any of the remaining racers with the scheduled 291-kilometre special set to guarantee another long day in the saddle.
Stage 4 Rally du Maroc 2021
SANDERS Daniel AUS Gas Gas Factory Team 3:50’34
WALKNER Matthias AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +0’36
QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +2’55
BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +5’47
RODRIGUES Joaquim POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +6’17
PRICE Toby AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +6’52
HOWES Skyler USA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team +7’31
VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team + 10’05
BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +10’10
BENAVIDES Luciano ARG Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +13’05
Provisional Overall Standings
Rally du Maroc 2021 after 4 of 5 stages
WALKNER Matthias AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 14:47’02
QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +0’37
SANDERS Daniel AUS Gas Gas Factory Team +5’46
BRABEC Ricky USA Monster Energy Honda Team +7’34
VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team +14’53
BENAVIDES Luciano ARG Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +26’41
BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +33’46
RODRIGUES Joaquim POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +36’13
SHORT Andrew USA Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team +36’24
CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +39’19
14. PRICE Toby AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +55’44
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