Race direction changes, road book errors, leading riders crashing into each other – dramatic events reign over the 2018 Merzouga Rally as it enters the final stage.
A number of road book issues have hit the 2018 Merzouga Rally, affecting navigation for some riders like Toby Price early in the rally and then a whole group of leading riders including rally leader Joan Barreda in the fourth stage, yesterday.
Barreda was among the group of riders including Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Pablo Quintanilla, who reportedly missed a turning and could not locate the tricky waypoint and lost as much as 40 minutes.
Amid the confusion the pair actually collided, Barreda coming away with damaged handlebars and Quintanilla with a knee injury.
Merzouga organisers overnight then annulled the very last part of the stage, removing the section of the course where many had found issues, turning the results upside down.
Photo Credit: Marcin Kin
Alessandro Botturi certainly was one rider who’d have preferred things to stand. After not making the same mistakes as others, the Italian thought he had won the stage before results were changed.
Another rider to be affected was Toby Price. After having those issues with the roadbook on day one, Price had moved on and steadily moved up the order to arrive at yesterday’s finish in second overall. Or so he thought.
“The marathon stage has been a tough ride. Yesterday went well, apart from a couple of small navigation errors that cost me some time, I kept to a good pace and arrived safely at the bivouac. Things went well today, a couple of the guys in front made quite a serious mistake missing a waypoint and that cost them a bit of time. I was close to repeating their mistake but managed to correct myself, and eventually crossed the line with the fourth fastest time.”
Photo Credit: Team HRC
For his part the rally leader, Barreda, said: “We had difficulty finding a waypoint seven km from the finish line. We were there, at the point, but it just didn’t seem to add up and we ended up spending forty minutes to find it. Other riders arrived and in the end we found the position. We believe there was an error in the roadbook note.”
After some teams and riders protested the issue, race organisers decided to cut the stage short by just a few kilometres.
It left some confusion among riders and race fans, depending on your preferred motorcycle colour it was either good or a shambles. Despite blowing 40 minutes looking for that elusive waypoint, Joan Barreda still arrived at the stage four finish with the rally overall in the bag before results were changed.
The final stage will consist a mass start which makes it difficult, barring a crash from Barreda, for anyone to overtake the Spaniard's lead.
Merzouga Rally organisers have released no real official explanation other than to correct the results.
Toby Price for one was not pleased with the decision. Here’s what he thought about it all on a Facebook post…
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org