The first of the six stages of the Morocco Rally, 271km in length, was really a warm up with riders tackling all kinds of terrains: fast tracks, dunes and rocky paths. The first part of the stage was very fast, rocky and quite dangerous with many points signalled with “danger 3”. The track took the competitors on a large plateau followed by a steep descent into a canyon, before crossing the Erg. After the service in Merzouga the riders continued on a fast and rocky track until the end of the stage, located near Erfourd, the base of the bivouac for the first two days.
“I’m very happy with this result, winning the first stage in my first race with a new machine and a new team is a great satisfaction,” commented Rodrigues. “This is just the first day but it’s nice to start on top. The CRF 450 Rally is working well, we have a very good base and this race is also good for testing before the Dakar, which is our target. Today it was a good stage with a diversified terrain. I rode with Coma and Despres, we were very close and finally I won”.
Getting down to the serious business of rally in Morocco, Coma made a strong start to his competitive week of racing by placing second on stage one finishing 72 seconds behind Rodrigues after 271km of timed racing.
Ending his day in third, Despres said he was quite satisfied with the opening day but admitted it had been difficult riding over the rocky passages and also having made several small mistakes that cost him ‘some seconds’.
Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain put in a fine performance in the opening stage of the Morocco rally with Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves taking fourth and fifth place in the overall standings.
It could have been even better had Barreda and Goncalves not made some directional errors that added some extra mileage and lost them valuable time.
“I was a bit disappointed with today,” remarked Barreda, winner of last week’s Pharaon’s Rally in Egypt. “I got away well and was leading a third of the way into the special test. Then I misread some stretches and ended up adding on a few kilometres that made me lose ten or so minutes. As far as the rest is concerned, it went well. The bike’s going really well, and here what counts is being consistent and not making mistakes."
“I’m fairly happy with my first day,” added Goncalves. “Shame about the directional error, but that’s the way rallies go. It’s only the first stage and we still have time to make it up. Today was my first day on the new bike and I’m really happy with the team effort.”
Results: Stage One
1. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) 2 hours 59.50
2. Marc Coma (KTM) +1 min 12sec
3. Cyril Despres (KTM) +2.20
4. Joan Barrera (Husqvarna) +10.41
5. Paolo Goncalves (Husqvarna) +13.36
6. Olivier Pain, France (Yamaha) +14.26