Matthias Walkner has rebounded on stage two of the 2021 Rally du Maroc to claim the 600km stage victory ahead of Honda duo Jose Cornejo and Pablo Quintanilla.
At a total of 609 kilometers, stage two was the longest of the race and included a challenging timed special of 334 kilometers. Described as the ‘most scenic’ stage by race organizers due to the vast areas of rolling dunes riders traveled through, accurate navigation was key to setting a good time.
A solid start to the rally saw Matthias Walkner finish fourth on day one, and as such, the Austrian set off this morning with three riders ahead of him. After taking time to find his rhythm in the soft sand dunes, Walkner was able to push on, soon clocking in at each waypoint near the top of the timesheets. Riding without any troubles, and ultimately winning the stage by one minute and 19 seconds, the world championship leader now heads the provisional overall rankings going into stage three.
“It was a really good day for me today,” Walkner reflected. “I set out looking to minimize any mistakes again and I found it easier to get into a good pace early on. My navigation was good, and I think after about 100 kilometers I could see the guys in front of me. I pushed on from there and by kilometer 300 I caught them and the four of us rode in a group to the finish. I’m pleased to have won the stage but it means opening tomorrow, which will be tough. We’re fighting for the top spot on the podium though, so I’ll do my best and hopefully do a good job
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo produced a fine showing, starting from seventh position. The rider from Iquique was in the battle for the win in the special stage, although eventually dropping a minute to Walkner. Nevertheless, the rider moves up the overall Rallye du Maroc standings and now lies in sixth place, less than six minutes shy of the leader.
“Today was a much better day for me,” Cornejo said. “I started from a good position, I wanted to ride a solid stage, without any mistakes and I think I didn’t make any errors with the navigation. It was a very full stage where I was able to set a good pace. At the end there was a complicated area of navigation and I preferred to play it safe so as not to make any mistakes. Maybe I lost a few seconds, but I’m still satisfied. On the bike, I’m feeling very comfortable and I’m getting better as the days go by.”
Nacho’s fellow-countryman Pablo Quintanilla, third on the start-line, managed the stage successfully, crossing the line in third place, 2’50 behind the winner of the stage Walkner, but the Chilean from Viña del Mar moves up one position in the general standings to just 19 seconds behind the leader.
“This second stage of the rally was very long and very tough,” Quintanilla said. “A liaison of 200 kilometres very early in the morning and the special stage of about 350 kilometres with fast, parallel tracks, stones, dunes and dry river beds. It was a high-speed special stage. I knew I was going to drop some time starting third, but in the end it went better than expected and I finished third. I’m happy, I’m second now. I feel comfortable with the bike and I’m very motivated for what lies ahead.”
Australian Daniel Sanders was the fourth fastest rider. The fifth competitor to enter the second special of the event, Sanders immediately set a blistering pace from the start to secure another strong finish. Retaining his fifth-place ranking in the overall provisional classification, and now lying just under five minutes behind the leader, Sanders is undoubtedly putting together his strongest start to a rally since joining GASGAS. And with three days of racing to go, everything is very much still to play for!
“Today was another good stage for me and I’m really happy with how this rally is shaping up,” Sanders enthused. “I feel great on my bike and it’s running perfectly, which allows me to crack on and do my job. I will say that I lost my focus a little just before refueling but once I’d had something to eat, I was back to it and felt strong towards the end. It was cool to ride alone for most of the stage, out of the dust, and rely on my navigation. This got me safely to the end with no major mistakes.”
Kevin Benavides to a solid fifth-place ahead of Ross Branch in sixth and Ricky Brabec seventh.
Stage one winner Joan Barreda set off first today after winning yesterday’s stage. The Monster Energy Honda Team rider opened the way throughout the entire day, even when team-mate Ricky Brabec pulled alongside the Spaniard. In spite of some initial hesitation, the pair managed to set an imposing pace at the head of the field, offsetting the handicap of having to face a brand new route. The immediate rivals, who started from positions further back, with the advantage of being able to monitor the navigational moves of the Honda CRF450 RALLY riders ahead, were faced with a tough task. Brabec now holds third overall and Barreda fourth after finishing stage two in 7th and 11th respectively.
Australian Toby Price made up ground after the disaster of the opening stage. Following his navigational error on stage one, Price was forced to start today’s special in 29th. Immediately getting his head down to make up time, the Australian was quickest to the first checkpoint from where he started to encounter slower riders ahead of him. Taking his time to get through the dust raised by the riders ahead, Toby made his way through the field to the finish as 13th fastest.
“Day two was a much better stage for me,” Price said. “I had to start quite far back, and that meant passing quite a few guys ahead and having to get through their dust, but all in all it was a fun day with no big issues. I gave away a lot on day one, which is frustrating, but from here, I just need to stay on two wheels, bring it home every day and get to the finish.”
Stage three of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc features the second longest timed special of the event at 341 kilometers. In total, riders will cover over 600 kilometers in a looped stage, starting and finishing at the bivouac in Zagora.
Stage 2 results
|1||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||3:40’32|
|2||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+1’19|
|3||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+2’50|
|4||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||+3’40|
|5||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+4’04|
|6||EVAN BRANCH Ross||BWA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+4’53|
|7||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+5’48|
|8||SUNDERLAND Sam||GBR||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+6’03|
|9||HOWES Skyler||USA||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||Husqvarna||+7’00|
|10||RODRIGUES Joaquim||POR||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||Hero||+7’30|
|11||BARREDA Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+8’43|
Provisional Standings after Stage 2
|1||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||7:12’11|
|2||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+0’19|
|3||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+1’00|
|4||BARREDA Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+3’01|
|5||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||+4’57|
|6||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+5’57|
|7||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+11’18|
|8||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+12’47|
|9||SUNDERLAND Sam||GBR||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+18’09|
|10||BENAVIDES Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||Husqvarna||+18’41|