Red Bull KTM factory riders on Wednesday wrapped up stage three of the Morocco Rally, and after the marathon stage where teams are denied any support and camp overnight in the desert, Toby Price leads the overall standings by one minute 58 seconds.
Toby Price finished a close and tactical second place in Wednesday’s stage, tucked in behind Argentine rider Kevin Benavides and trailing by only 51 seconds. He now starts second on Thursday, which relieves him of the duty of navigating to open the track for stage four.
Factory teammate Matthias Walkner made a good recovery after getting lost in Tuesday to finish third in the stage, just 1.04 minutes behind the leader, and Sam Sunderland was a close fourth to wrap up a good day for the KTM factory team.
After two tough days in the desert, where riders had to save tires and look after their bikes through both stages, the three-man team were pleased to have the marathon stage behind them.
Both days were long and exhausting, particularly Tuesday when they traveled from the ocean into the dunes some 554 km, just under 300 of which was under the clock. After a night camping in the desert they then had to tackle Wednesday’s third stage of 390 km, including the 315 km timed special.
The start of Tuesday’s stage was also not without a flavor of adventure after riders were held up by the military after the first 50 km and organizers later neutralized the first section and took the result only from the first checkpoint.
Price: “After the holdup I put in some extra time on my tires to go flat out to make up the time, but other than that it was good. We navigated at the front all day and I didn’t make any navigation errors, only small things, so we got through well. Stage three today was definitely difficult with the navigation.
I was glad to be at the finish line on both days and to get the marathon out of the way. The bike is in good shape and we’re looking forward to stage four. Tomorrow will be difficult but I go off second behind Kevin (Benavides) and at the moment I’m battling with Sam so it’s going to be a tight one right to the finish. As long as we can stay on the navigation and don’t make any big errors it should be good.”
Sunderland: “The first part of the marathon was a bit strange because after 50 km we had the military across the track waving guns at us. After that they (the organizers) neutralized the first part but the navigation for the rest of the stage was pretty heavy.
I had to ride really fast to make up for a few mistakes but I arrived okay at the end of the first part. The bike was perfect and with no problems, which was lucky because in the marathon stage we get no assistance.”
Sunderland said riders were on their bikes for about 12 hours on Tuesday so were very tired when they reached the bivouac for the overnight stop. “Today we didn’t get fresh tires so we just had to do with half good tires.
I saw after a while that (Paolo) Goncalves had stopped with engine problems. Then I was in front and opened the route for the last 220 km. I had a good feeling but the navigation was tricky so I just took my time when I needed to and pushed when I had to. Tomorrow will be another long day but we’ll keep fighting and see how we go.”
Walkner confirmed that he had got badly lost in stage two on Tuesday and went about 20 km in the wrong direction. “But in the end I’m here to get ready for the Dakar Rally and sometimes when you try to do the best you can, it happens. Now I think my speed is getting better, but I still have to work on the navigation.
Today I started eleventh. I caught some dust at the beginning but I was getting better and better, also with the navigation and I finished third, which is quite cool for me. In the end I was just happy to be in the front.”
The Red Bull KTM factory riders all compete on the KTM 450 RALLY machine. The Morocco Rally, the final round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship concludes with stage five on Friday, when the title will also be decided.
Results Stage 2 OiLibya Rally 2016
1. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:40:45 h
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +45 sec
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, +1:15 min
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +2:06
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, +4:05