Shortened for safety reasons, stage three of the Andalucia Rally saw riders complete the first 114 kilometres as planned before leaving the special and rejoining at kilometre 183. As such, the initial 300-kilometer timed special was reduced to 230 kilometres of racing, through the winding, hilly tracks east of Seville.
While Joan Barreda took the stage win, Australian competitors Toby Price and Daniel Sanders were both within the top-10, with Sanders the top performing Australian for Stage 3 in ninth, while Toby Price came home in 10th, and now sits fifth overall in the overall classification, 15-minutes off leader Kevin Benavides.
Matthias Walkner was second fastest for the stage followed by Kevin Benavides, while Xavier de Soultrait and Skyler Howes completed the top five. The overall standings see Benavides in first, followed by Adrien Van Beveren and Lorenzo Santolino. Franco Caimi is fourth, followed by Price, Joan Barreda in sixth and Matthias Walkner in seventh. Daniel Sanders is currently 13th.
Setting off from behind, Spaniard from Castellón Joan Barreda was able to set a solid pace, clawing back time from his rivals to finish with an advantage of over three-and-a-half minutes over the day’s second best finisher. Barreda, despite yesterday’s penalty, thus pulls back positions in the general standings and is now sixth overall in the race.
“I started behind, at first I had to be careful because there was a lot of dust and you could not do any crazy overtaking as there was no air and the dust stayed suspended in the air and it was dangerous. I was able to pass a few riders when the open track arrived and I kept calm and was able to recover quite a bit of time with some good pace. I’m quite happy with the stage, because I liked the terrain, with fast tracks and some rocks which really punished the tyres.”
Capitalising on his later start time, Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner immediately pushed right from the start of Friday’s shortened stage, clocking the fastest time to the waypoint at kilometre 41. From then on, the Austrian held a strong pace through the remaining 200 kilometres, never falling from the top two. Earning provisional second on the day moves Matthias up to seventh in the overall standings with only Saturday’s stage four left to race.
“It was a really nice day today – I enjoyed the riding more than I have so far this rally, there was a lot more grip on the stage than previous days. I did have one moment where I hit a rock that was hidden in the grass, that gave me a little scare, but apart from that, all went well. Like a lot of people today, I found a few issues with the road book, but when I reached the finish, my time was good. We were told there might be an issue with my GPS today, so we’ll have to wait a little longer for the final result. For now though, I’m happy.”
Kevin Benavides also produced a fine stage three showing, posting third and keeping command of the overall leader board for a further day. Benavides has an advantage of more than six and a half minutes over the nearest second-placed rival with just the final stage to run before the race concludes.
“It was a good day today. I made some navigational mistakes, but the pace and speed on the bike were good, allowing me to make up some lost time. I’m also happy because my arm didn’t hurt at all. We have passed another positive day and there is just one more day of racing remaining to enjoy.”
Placing sixth on stage three, Adrien Van Beveren put forward a calculated ride to end the day one step closer to an overall podium finish. Pushing hard from the beginning of the stage, the Frenchman opted to slow his pace during the second half to reduce any potential mistakes and ensure another strong result. Following three consistent stage finishes, Van Beveren now sits in a comfortable second place with one day remaining.
“Another good day today. I felt good on my bike and early on I pushed really hard as we have one day left and I want to finish on the podium. Halfway through I slowed my pace a little to avoid any navigational errors and I finished the stage in second so I’m really happy. I’ll approach tomorrow with the same mentality and focus and hopefully we can come away with a positive result.”
Posting the ninth-fastest time on the day’s special, KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders showed he is more than capable of staying with the top riders in the sport, despite his relative inexperience. Riding without mistakes, the 26-year-old put in a mature performance to give himself a strong start position for tomorrow’s final stage.
“I achieved my goal today of completing the stage in a good time and without any penalties. There were some modifications in today’s road book and as I’m still learning to deal with all the navigation, I found these a little confusing but it’s all part of the experience. I started really well and was able to push for a lot of the special. Eventually I caught up to three riders ahead of me and it was too difficult to pass cleanly, so I rode the last 50 or 60 kilometers at a solid pace and just kept things safe, hopefully for a strong finish tomorrow.”
Setting a solid pace on the fast, dusty Spanish tracks, Toby Price continues to follow his goal of a good, safe finish at the Andalucia Rally. Again, riding without mishap, the Aussie star placed 10th on the stage and now lies a strong fifth in the overall standings, due in part to being awarded time for issues on the stage one special that he encountered while opening on Wednesday.
“Stage three went quite well for me. I made one small navigation mistake, but again it seems like most riders suffered the same issue with things not quite matching up with the road book. Generally though, the road book today has been spot on. On the whole, I’m feeling good, the bike is performing perfectly and we’re happy with our pace so far. One day left now, so bring on tomorrow!”
Stage four of the 2020 Andalucia Rally, the final of this year’s event, will see riders tackle 233 kilometers of riding, including two timed specials that make up the 210 kilometers raced against the clock. The initial section is a repeat of the 110-kilometer route seen on stage one, that is then followed by another 100-kilometer loop that brings competitors back to the bivouac at Villamartin and the checkered flag.
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