Pablo Quintanilla wins the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship

Mathias Walkner takes the Morocco Rally victory

At the end of the day, this tenth edition of the Oilibya Rallye du Maroc was not a walk in the park. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) set out for this last stage of this last round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship in 3rd position but found himself in 9th position overall, as the Jury’s decision concerning Stage 2 had been overruled.

KTM's Mathias Walker took the Morocco Rally win with Honda's Benavides and Brabec completing the overall podium
KTM’s Matthias Walkner took the Morocco Rally win with Honda’s Benavides and Brabec completing the overall podium

To be in with a chance of being crowned FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion, Kevin Benavides (Honda) had to win the race with Quintanilla finishing lower than 6th place. Unfortunately for him, the young man from Argentina, who set out in second this morning, got lost and the win went to Matthias Walkner, leaving Quintanilla, who finished 6th in the rally, to take the Championship title!

Happy and relieved at the end of a roller coaster of a week, Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) was greeted by his team with huge congratulations.

Pablo Quintanilla - FIM Cross Country Rallies World Champion
Pablo Quintanilla – FIM Cross Country Rallies World Champion
Pablo Quintanilla – FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship

“I’m over the moon with securing this title. This year’s Morocco Rally has been a tough one and with all the incidents on day two I had to dig really deep to defend my championship. I did my best to remain focused until the end as my main goal was to be world champion again. Everything went well and I never lost my focus. Overall, I felt very strong racing here in Morocco. I felt strong with my navigation and the bike, and this is very important for the coming Dakar Rally. I just want to thank all the members of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for their hard work and dedication. We’ve all worked really hard during the season and this title is the best reward for all the sacrifices.”

Matthias Walkner topped the Morocco Rally standings in dominant form
Matthias Walkner topped the Morocco Rally standings in dominant form

But while the laurels remain on the head of Quintanilla, the Oilibya Rallye du Madoc was won by Matthias Walkner (KTM). Topping the standings on the sixth and final day of competition in Morocco, Walkner has won the last round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

Matthias Walkner – Morocco Rally Champion

“It’s been a long event and I’m really happy that I won it. During the last few days we were faced with overflowing rivers, long stages with tricky navigation and a series of other things that could have completely changed the outcome of the event. This is my first victory in the championship and it feels good. The new bike has given me a lot of confidence to push and take my riding into a new level. I’m happy with my performance here in Morocco and this is very important heading into the Dakar Rally now. It makes the next three months a lot easier for me. The team have done an awesome job and we are all looking forward to the Dakar Rally.”

The KTM Team celebrate Walkner's victory
The KTM Team celebrate Walkner’s victory

Kevin Benavides went in search of victory throughout the race, aware that in doing so, he could also snatch the world title. However, a minor error was enough to miss out on the chance of winning the special. The second position in the OiLibya Morocco Rally means that the Argentinean rider seals runner-up spot in the overall world championship standings.

Kevin Benavides – 2nd Overall

“This Moroccan Rally has been a good rally for me. I did the best I could, thinking that I might reach fourth position in the World Championship and in the end I finished runner-up, after a bad start to the season, as I was still carrying the hand injury. That’s why I’m happy because I’ve had a great end to the season. Today I gave it the maximum, but I made a small roadbook error when I was going at a fast speed, but I’m happy nevertheless. Of the last four races, I was always on the podium: a win, two seconds and a third, and the most important thing is the consistency that we’ve been having lately. We will continue working because there are three months left before the Dakar, and although the bike has not given any type of problem, we will continue with some testing the next few days. I also want to thank the whole team for their great work in these races and especially my team-mates Paulo Gonçalves, who I hope will recover soon, and also Ricky Brabec, for his first podium in a word championship race.”

Kevin Benavides took second for the Morocco rally and in the overall Cross Country Rallies Championship
Kevin Benavides took sixth for the stage and second in the overall Morocco Rally standings

Ricky Brabec (Honda) made it on to the podium for the first time in Cross-Country Rallies, in third place.

Ricky Brabec – 3rd Overall

“I started off with a cold and sweating and getting hot for no reason; stuffy nose, sore throat. It’s been tough. It was tough for the first few days but I was able to get my stuff together. Eventually I made it happen and got my first podium in a professional world championship rally. That’s pretty big for me. It’s gonna make the plane ride home a little bit better, knowing that I did pretty well. So I’m happy. For this we’ve had a very good experience going towards the Dakar. We have a very strong team despite some problems. The whole team wasn’t here, but I think that Honda can take some Dakar podiums. The bike ran perfectly and we didn’t have to change anything except the tyres. Thanks to my mechanic Hide. He’s amazing. Thanks to the whole team for setting up a good spec for me and now we’ll push forwards towards the Dakar.”

Ricky Brabec took second in in the stage, finishing the Morocco Rally in third overall
Ricky Brabec took second in in the stage, finishing the Morocco Rally in third overall

Antoine Meo (KTM) finished fourth in the rally but still has an injury to his left hand. He came in ahead of Joan Pedrero (Sherco TVS), Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) and Joachim Rodrigues (Hero).

Antoine Meo took fourth in the Morocco Rally
Antoine Meo took fourth in the Morocco Rally

Laia Sanz (KTM) came in eighth and was winner of the FIM Women’s Cup.

KTM's Laia Sanz
KTM’s Laia Sanz

The young Pole, Maciej Giemza (KTM Orlen), who finished in 16th overall, won the FIM Junior World Cup.

Reaching the finish line of today’s fifth stage without any issues, KTM Factory Racing team rookie Luciano Benavides finished the rally in 17th position.

Luciano Benavides

“I learned a lot during these last few days and I already feel stronger. Navigation was tough at this year’s Morocco Rally and you had to remain focused on avoiding mistakes. My pace was good throughout the week and I didn’t make any big mistakes. I’m also very happy because I won the Junior class. I feel great with my team and now I’m looking forward to the Dakar Rally.”

Luciano Benavides
Luciano Benavides

2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – Final Standings

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 100pts
  2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 97pts
  3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 94pts
  4. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 85pts
  5. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 84pts

Provisional standings of the fifth stage, Motorcycles

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) in 1h51’25
  2. Ricky Brabec (Honda) at 1’20
  3. Antoine Meo (KTM) at 2’57
  4. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) at 3’47
  5. Joan Pedrero (Sherco TVS) at 5’05
  6. Kevin Benavides (Honda) at 6’33
  7. Alessandro Botturi at 9’50
  8. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) at 12’56
  9. Santolino Sanchez (Sherco TVS) at 14’55
  10. Andrew Short (Husqvarna) at 16’06

Provisional overall standings, Motorcycles

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) en 10h03’19
  2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) à 13’42
  3. Ricky Brabec (Honda) à 16’58
  4. Antoine Meo (KTM) à 18’27
  5. Joan Pedrero (Sherco TVS) à 22’28
  6. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) à 37’22
  7. Joachim Rodrigues (Hero) à 44’29
  8. Laia Sanz (KTM) à 44’52
  9. Santolino Sanchez (Sherco TVS) à 54’30
  10. Adrien Metge (Sherco TVS) à 56’52