Rallye

Luciano Benavides Wins Stage 4 Of The 2023 Rallye du Maroc While Toby Price Still Leads

Author: Garry Morrow

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Photo of Luciano Benavides at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Luciano Benavides clawed his way back into the lead of the 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship with a win on the penultimate stage of the 2023 Rallye du Maroc. Photo: Ingine Creators

Luciano Benavides has stormed to victory on stage four of the 2023 Rallye du Maroc ahead of Jose Ignacio Cornejo and Toby Price.

Australian Toby Price maintains the Rally lead but Benavides’ win has moved him into third place overall and a championship-winning position with one day remaining.

Day four of the Rallye du Maroc covered 422 kilometres, including a lengthy timed special of 343 kilometres. Billed by the organisers as one of the most beautiful yet difficult of the event, the stage didn’t disappoint, delivering a mixture of camel grass and fast, rocky sections, before finishing in the dunes of Merzouga.

With the world title in the balance, Luciano Benavides knew he had to take maximum advantage of his sixth-place starting position on today’s special and try to make up as much time on the leaders as possible. Fastest to the first checkpoint by over one minute, Benavides continued to attack the demanding stage, increasing his advantage to the finish. Even when bonus time was awarded to those opening the stage he came out on top with a one minute and 18-second margin of victory.

“Today has been intense from start to finish,” Benavides reflected. “I knew I had a good start position, but it wasn’t going to be easy to make up time on the guys ahead who were earning bonus time. I just kept my head down and did my best all the way through the special, especially in the final kilometres through the dunes. Tomorrow is the final day of the rally – the final day of the season in fact – and things are so close at the top of the standings. All I can do is give everything on the last stage. Whether I win or not, I know I will have tried my best.”

Photo of Jose Ignacio Cornejo at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
The ever constant Jose Ignacio Cornejo took another podium with third today. Photo: Ingine Creators

Jose Ignacio Cornejo collected his third podium so far and is climbing the overall standings – where he sits now in 6th position.

“I am happy to finish Stage 4, it was a long one that mixed every kind of terrain,” Cornejo said. “At the beginning, it was really fast, but then after refuelling, it was more technical with more dune navigation. I had a good feeling with my Honda CRF 450 Rally and I really enjoy racing here in Morocco. We are improving day by day so let’s see how it goes until the end.”

Photo of Toby Price at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Toby Price has been doing all he can to win the World Championship but can’t go much better than leading the overall after finishing the fourth stage third. Photo: Ingine Creators

Giving his all as always, Toby Price was the second rider to enter the timed special and immediately set about chasing down the rider ahead. Navigating well through the varied and demanding terrain, the 36-year-old was able to maintain a strong pace from the front, making the minimum of errors and in turn, earning close to four minutes of bonus time for opening the stage.

Safely home in third place, Price increased his lead in the provisional overall standings to five minutes and 56 seconds. With tomorrow’s fifth stage measuring a shorter 152 kilometres, the final timed special of this year’s event represents a relative sprint finish to the rally. Although Toby will be aiming to push hard over the looped stage and carry his advantage to the finish line, with times so tight at the top of the standings, the fight for the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship title looks set to go down to the very final kilometer of the stage.

“It was definitely a long day out there today,” Price said. “I had a good day on the whole, I did make a couple of little navigation errors, but was able to fix them pretty quickly and didn’t lose too much time. It’s the last day tomorrow and things in the championship fight are getting really close. It looks like my issue in Argentina might come back to haunt me. All I can do here in Morocco is keep on fighting and let the race come to me. One day left, so I’m all in!”

Photo of Pablo Quintanilla at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Pablo Quintanilla put in another solid ride to finish fourth. Photo: Ingine Creators

Pablo Quintanilla was fourth today and has the same classification in the overall standings.

“I had a little problem with the GPS that made me postpone my start,” Quintanilla explained. “The first part of the stage was super fast and I was feeling quite good. Then the second part of the stage was really difficult and I kept pushing as much as I could. Around kilometer 290 I had a problem, so I tried to manage the situation in the best way I could to reach the end of the stage. This has been a good rallye so far and it feels great to be in Morocco in such a demanding race.”

Photo of Tosha Schareina at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Tosha Schareina was unable to take his third stage win after experiencing a broken exhaust manifold but was still fifth. Photo: Ingine Creators

Following mechanical problems Tosha Schareina, the winner of two stages so far, rounded out the top five and maintains his fifth place in the overall rankings.

“Today everything was going perfect, opening the track and with a good pace but after refuelling I broke the lower part of the exhaust manifold making the bike not have much power in those last 90km,” Schareina explained. “That’s how races are and tomorrow we’re going for the last stage of this rally!”

Photo of Ross Branch at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Ross Branch’s consistent top five finishes have seen him elevated to second overall in the standings.

Ross Branch finished sixth after losing some precious time over some minor mistakes in the dunes.

Tomorrow it’s time to race the last stage from the Rallye du Maroc. The fifth stage will consist of a short circuit with start and arrival in Merzouga, with a 152 km that will alternated gravel tracks, sand and dunes. The margin to recover is short, but as always in rally anything can happen until the last moment.

Photo of Toby Hederics at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc
Australian privateer Toby Hederics achieved a personal goal finishing inside the top 20 with 19th after experiencing a small mechanical issue before the stage even started.

2023 Rallye du Maroc – Stage 4 Provisional Classification
1 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:35:12
2 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:36:30
3 Toby Price (KTM) 3:37:36
4 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:38:29
5 Tosha Schareina (Honda) 3:38:38
6 Ross Branch (Hero) 3:38:46

2023 Rallye du Maroc – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 4]
1 Toby Price (KTM) 14:02:38
2 Ross Branch (Hero) 14:08:34
3 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 14:09:02
4 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 14:10:38
5 Tosha Schareina (Honda) 14:12:32
6 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 14:13:21

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