Daniel Sanders has claimed his maiden Rally Du Maroc stage win after topping the timesheets on stage four ahead of Matthias Walkner and Pablo Quintanilla
Riders were today once again faced with high-speed, undulating, stony and sandy tracks, with some broken-up ground and even some trial-style areas. There were constant dangers present on a route that covered some stretches that had been covered over the preceding days. The number of dunes today was negligible. A 118-kilometre liaison section led the riders to this morning’s starting point for the 367-kilometre special stage, the longest of the entire Rallye du Maroc. By the end of the special, there were just 61 kilometres left to reach the Tizi bivouac located in Zagora.
With the fourth day of the Rallye Du Maroc serving up another technical stage with tricky navigation, Daniel Sanders kept his mistakes to an absolute minimum, focused on his roadbook, and when the stage win was on the cards, got on the gas to secure his victory! Now faced with being the first rider to start the final day of racing, the Aussie is up for the challenge and excited about the prospect of completing another round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with a strong overall finish.
“I got the win, which is sick! Today I didn’t make any major mistakes and with the tricky navigation, you really had to focus,” Sanders said. “For sure I went offline a few times but what was encouraging for me was that I got back on track quickly. The stage had a bit of everything today, which added to the challenge, and it seemed like every 20 minutes we were into something different whether it was sand, hardpack roads, or rocky sections. I’m now in a pretty good position overall and tomorrow I’ll lead out so I’m excited for the challenge and hope to end this rally with a strong result.”
Playing catch-up on today’s stage, Matthias Walkner was the 12th rider to enter the special. Making the most of his opportunity to push and make time on the riders ahead, Matthias was immediately fast to the first checkpoint. Maintaining his focus through the varied terrain, the Austrian was able to move into the lead of the stage by the halfway point. Choosing to ease his pace towards the finish, to minimize any mistakes, the 2018 Dakar Champion ultimately claimed second to re-take the provisional rally lead.
“It was a super long day again today,” Walkner said. “I tried my best to push right from the start because on such a long stage like this you find the pace drops off a little by the end. I wanted to catch as many people ahead as I could. This event is always one of my favorites – the terrain here really suits me with its mix of dunes, and off-pistes, and fast tracks. It’s really good for my confidence too, and I knew I would be able to make up some time today and fight for the stage win. I go into tomorrow’s final day leading the rally and as the second rider into the special. Hopefully I can make it safely to the finish without any big mistakes and fight for a place on the podium.”
The day proved to be a good one for Monster Energy Honda Team rider Pablo Quintanilla, who rode a solid stage and finished with the third-best time of the day. The Honda CRF450 RALLY rider confirmed his second overall place in the rally. The Chilean has one day left tomorrow to attempt to attack and reduce the 37-second gap that separates him from Walkner.
“We finished the penultimate stage of the race and like almost every other day, it was a long and hard stage,” Quintanilla said. “I’m happy, I felt great, with a good pace and without any navigation mistakes and that’s very important for my confidence. I’m second in the general standings, just slightly behind the first. Tomorrow we will go out to do our best on this last day. There will be less than 200 kilometres and so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Joan Barreda was fourth ahead of Joaquim Rodrigue in fifth while Toby Price had his highest stage finish so far with sixth.
Setting a good pace right from the start, Price fought his way up to fifth position in the first 100 kilometersl. A small error resulted in the Australian losing around three minutes to the leaders by the midway point. Caught by rally leader Walkner after the refueling stop, the duo raced together from there to the finish. Claiming sixth on the stage, Price lies 14th overall in the rally standings.
“Day four is done – just one stage to go now. I had a pretty decent day, I made a few little mistakes near the start, before the refueling, but after I didn’t have any major issues,” Price reported. “Matthias caught me around kilometer 220 so I let him take the lead and just tucked in behind him to the finish. We kept to a good solid pace and was able to bring it home safely. I’m feeling good, looking forward to the last stage and ready to go.”
The fifth and final stage offers no respite for any of the remaining racers with the scheduled 291-kilometre special set to guarantee another long day in the saddle.
Stage 4 Results
|1||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||3:50’34|
|2||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+0’36|
|3||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+2’55|
|4||BARREDA Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+5’47|
|5||RODRIGUES Joaquim||POR||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||Hero||+6’17|
|6||PRICE Toby||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+6’52|
|7||HOWES Skyler||USA||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+7’31|
|8||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+ 10’05|
|9||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+10’10|
|10||BENAVIDES Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||Husqvarna||+13’05|
|17||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+20’19|
Provisional Standings After Stage 4
|1||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||14:47’02|
|2||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+0’37|
|3||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||+5’46|
|4||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+7’34|
|5||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+14’53|
|6||BENAVIDES Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||Husqvarna||+26’41|
|7||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+33’46|
|8||RODRIGUES Joaquim||POR||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||Hero||+36’13|
|9||SHORT Andrew||USA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+36’24|
|10||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+39’19|