KTM’s Toby Price ends stage 3, the final part of the marathon stage, as the overall leader of the OiLibya Rally of Morocco.
Price finished a close second in Wednesday’s stage three behind Honda HRC’s Kevin Benavides to take back the overall race lead.
The third day of racing got underway from the camp at M’Hamid, at the foot of the dunes, for the second leg of the marathon stage. Riders had left the bikes in the parc ferme the night before – only the competitors themselves were allowed to work on the machines with no external mechanical assistance permitted.
Benavides, setting off from seventh position, was determined to make up the lost time from yesterday’s debacle. The rider had been stopped and forced to get off the bike by the Moroccan army at gunpoint.
With the bad experience firmly behind him, he got his first taste of world championship victory with a stage win. He took the lead 200 kilometres into the special and arrived in Erfoud with a difference of 51 seconds over Toby Price. Kevin moves up from fifth to third place in the overall standings just three minutes off first place.
“I’m quite happy because I made a comeback and got a good result,” told Benavides. “I felt very good right from the start and I started to really push, overtaking various riders. It was a bit complicated in the beginning with all the dust, but I felt some pretty good sensations with the bike as was able to ride at a fast pace.
Matthias Walkner made a good recovery after getting lost during stage 2 to finish third and with Sam Sunderland a close fourth it marked a good day for the KTM factory team.
Moving up the running order Pablo Quintanilla finished fifth in the stage for Husqvarna, three minutes behind the leader and in the overall sits fourth trailing Price by just over 11 minutes.
It wasn’t all good news for Honda though. As the race got underway Ricky Brabec - third on stage three - stopped unexpectedly. The rider did what he could to try and find out what the problem was, but was effectively out of the race at kilometre 50 on the day.
Similarly Paulo Gonçalves - stage two winner - found his machine cutting out suddenly near Tafraoute Sidi Ali. The mechanical and technical team are now investigating the exact origin of the troubles that put an end to the race of the Portuguese at kilometre 140 of the special stage.
Stage four is 319 kilometres of timed special in a stage that will feature 376 kilometres in total (85% against the clock). The race is due to take place in the surroundings of Erfoud.
Results Stage 3 OiLibya Rally 2016
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:13:05 h
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +51 sec
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +1:04 min
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +1:28
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +3:00
Standings OiLibya Rally 2016 after 3 of 5 stages
1. Price, 6:55:26 h
2. Sunderland, +1:58 min
3. Benavides, +2:29
4. Quintanilla, +11:16
5. Helder Rodrigues, Yamaha, +15:06
Stage 2 win and rally lead for Paulo Goncalves in Morocco. A 1-2 for Honda with Ricky Brabec second.
Team HRC rider Paulo Gonçalves has clinched the stage 2 victory at the Morocco Rally and with it claimed the overall race lead.
His teammate Ricky Brabec added to the Honda’s strong day two with a second place – a personal best for the American in the Cross-Country Rally World Championship.
The 291 kilometre stage two – the first part of the marathon stage – was modified due to the Moroccan Army stopping – for no apparent reason – various riders including Team HRC’s Argentinean young gun Kevin Benavides.
Race authorities decided that, for all the competitors, the stage should begin from CP1, 105 kilometres into the special stage. What remained were 186 kilometres against the clock, with a final stretch over the dunes before the stage finished back at the camp in M’Hamid.
Paulo Gonçalves, who got off to a flying start from the new relocated race-start proceeded to whittle away seconds from the riders ahead. Paulo arrived at the final destination at the foot of the dunes near M’Hamid with the day’s fastest time. Gonçalves checked over the Honda CRF450 RALLY and has verified that the bike is in good shape to attack tomorrow.
Ricky Brabec was on fire today. The American who started out ahead of his Portuguese teammate Goncalves finished 2’25 behind him to post the first one-two for the Honda CRF450 RALLY in the OiLibya Morocco Rally 2016 so far.
Sam Sunderland was the best KTM rider on the day placing third overall and 13 seconds ahead of teammate Toby Price in fourth.
Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues was fifth fastest with his teammate Adrien Van Beveren just behind him sixth.
Stage three sees the second leg of the marathon stage with no outside mechanical assistance being allowed overnight.
Riders will have to weather a tough stage with over 80% of the total distance against the clock. 315 kilometres of the total 390 will be timed on the route that will take the competitors to the bivouac in Erfoud.
KTM’s Toby Price has claimed the opening stage win at the . Second was Honda’s Kevin Benavides and third place went to Price’s teammate Sam Sunderland.
With only one minute separating the top three, and the first 15 riders all within a five-minute span, it is very much open after the first of five stages.
Toby Price was also the winner in Sunday’s 7-km super special on his KTM 450 RALLY. The top 10 riders were able to choose their preferred starting positions for the first stage on Monday. Price go 11th, leaving the responsibility of opening the track and the first navigation challenges to the riders in front.
Faced with 240 km on the bikes, which included two timed specials of 70 and 50 km, Price said the opening stage was more of a sprint.
“Stage one was good and there was a couple of tricky bits and the dust made it a bit difficult when we caught some riders in front,” said Price. “But we got through well and I only made a couple of small errors with the navigation. But I think it was more to do with the dust and trying to keep my eyes on the road instead of looking at the road book.”
Things get serious tomorrow when riders face the first half of a marathon stage where they will overnight in the desert and are not permitted any mechanical support from their teams.
“It’s going to be difficult and we’re going to make sure we look after the bike and the tires, and on day three we can charge a bit harder,” told Price. “We’ll just take it nice and easy and make sure we finish in one piece and start day three feeling healthy and with a good bike.”
Just over one minute adrift of Price, Benavides was second…
“I felt great on the bike and I picked things up as the stage went on and felt better and better as the kilometres went by. The bike was perfect. It was a good first stage with a fast pace and now we are focusing on what is coming up over the next few days, above all tomorrow which is the marathon stage.”
Sunderland was also satisfied with his opening day, although he said it had been a tough one with lots of stony areas and speed zones.
“Today was pretty good. I started in 12th and that was my decision after the prologue. I had Toby in front of me and I knew I would have a bit of clean air because he would be pushing hard. We both caught Yamaha rider de Soultrait after only a few kilometres and I caught his dust a bit and made a small navigational error.”
Honda’s Ricky Brabec took advantage of his starting position to post a fourth place. The American was twenty-five seconds quicker than Portuguese teammate Paulo Gonçalves – fifth overall after the aggregate of today’s two specials and the super-special of yesterday in Agadir.
Walkner said he got lost a couple of times in the opening stage but also confirmed he was managing to regain the rally speed. “I feel I’m improving my speed a lot. It’s not like it was before my Dakar crash but I’m happy because I feel better with the bike.
“Now I have to be more focused on the navigation. We have two long days for the marathon stage and I will try to be careful, because if we have problems we have to fix it ourselves and this takes time and energy. I will try to stay focused and enjoy these two days.”
The Morocco Rally is over five stages and a distance of 1882 km of which 1317 km are under the clock.
Stage Two’s “From Ocean to Dunes” is 554 km, of which 291 are timed special.
Photos: Marcin Kin, HRC
Results/Standings OiLibya Rally 2016
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 1:36:16 h
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, +1:06 min
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +1:34
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, +2:53
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, +3:18
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), +4:26