Monster Energy Honda Team occupied the entire podium after the first stage of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc while Australian Daniel Sanders was fifth and Toby Price had a tough day.
Joan Barreda saw off the other riders to snatch the overall race lead. Ricky Brabec and Pablo Quintanilla were hot on his trail in the day’s standings.
A total of 288 kilometres of the special stage were covered on the day, divided into three different segments, with the opening kilometres raced over fast, dusty tracks before moving on to some thirty kilometres of dunes in the heart of the Erg Chegaga. The riders also encountered a very difficult navigational section with off-piste tracks, further hindered by the harsh weather conditions, where a mammoth sandstorm made for some fairly treacherous riding. The final part of the route played out on stony tracks.
Joan Barreda set a break-neck pace and was soon leading the provisional timesheets. Team-mate Ricky Brabec followed in hot pursuit, with the pair completing the rest of the lengthy stage together.
At the finish-line in Zagora, Barreda crossed 1’10 ahead of second-placed Brabec and almost three minutes clear of team-mate Pablo Quintanilla, who proved to be very nippy over the dusty tracks of the Chegaga. Pablo now holds third spot in the general standings of the Rallye du Maroc.
“It was complicated because there was a lot of dust from the riders who had gone out in front,” Barreda explained. “Then, in the dunes, I pushed hard and the bike responded perfectly with a good pace, I felt really good. After the dunes I saw that some riders were having trouble finding the right direction with difficult visibility due to a sandstorm. I kept a cool head and I think it was the best decision. Then the navigation got better and I was able to finish a good stage.”
Ricky Brabec had the same difficulties but endured the tough stage to finish second.
“Stage one was a really long one. Really windy out there. I was thinking at one point they were going to cancel the stage. As a racer you couldn’t see very far in front of you,” Brabec explained. “Once Joan caught me, we rode together all day. He did a really good job opening, but we also had some lines to look at. Unfortunately, some of the other guys lost time today. It’s only the first day. We have four more days. We are going to stay focused and make it to the end.”
Third placed Pablo Quintanilla was happy to get off to a good start and was happy with the way he rode and his result.
“Today was the real start to the race,” Quintanilla said. “It wasn’t an easy first stage, there was a lot of dust, poor visibility, fast tracks and also parallel tracks with some complicated off-piste tracks. I felt good, with a very good pace. It’s very important to start the race well, on the right foot, and the truth is that I’m very happy with the way I rode the bike, very comfortably, and I’m also pleased with the result.”
Setting off ninth into the day’s stage, championship leader Matthias Walkner rode a solid special, slowly building his pace as the day progressed to be the first KTM home in fourth.
Australian Daniel Sanders finished fifth and felt comfortable, and finding his flow from the very beginning of the special, Sanders upped his pace as the stage progressed to bring come home well-placed among the leading riders.
It was the opposite for Australia Toby Price. Posting the second fastest time on Friday’s Prologue meant Price was soon out front today, opening the stage. First to hit the sandstorm that caused issues for many riders, Price ended up losing a large amount of time after becoming lost and struggling to find his way back on track. Despite the set-back the twice Dakar Champion was pleased with how he rode, and now looks to continue evaluating the bike as the rally continues.
“It was not a great day for me today,” Price lamented. “After my result in the Prologue yesterday, I soon found myself opening the stage. From around kilometer 30 to around 120 it was all fine, but then we hit the dust storm and that got pretty bad. Some of the other boys caught up and we were riding back and forth trying to find the piste. I got lost coming out of a riverbed and it ended up costing me around 40 minutes or so. So yeah, it’s been a rough day, and not the way I wanted to start the Morocco rally, but there are still four more days to go, so we’ll keep testing the new bike and hopefully get some better results.”
Tomorrow’s stage looks likely to be a tricky affair for a repeat for the Monster Energy Honda Team riders who will be forced to open the track for the 330-kilometres special stage, by now familiar to the riders, as the route will be in the opposite area to today’s stage. By the end of the day, the riders will have completed a trek of over 600 kilometres.
Stage 1 Results
|1||BARREDA Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||2:58’53|
|2||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+1’10|
|3||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+2’59|
|4||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+6’50|
|5||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||+7’31|
|6||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+9’51|
|7||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+10’08|
|8||SVITKO Stefan||SLO||Slovnaft Team||KTM||+12’52|
|9||BENAVIDES Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||Husqvarna||+13’20|
|10||BENAVIDES Kevin||ARG||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+13’40|
Overall After Stage 1
|1||BARREDA Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||3:25’57|
|2||BRABEC Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+0’54|
|3||QUINTANILLA Pablo||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+3’11|
|4||WALKNER Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||KTM||+5’42|
|5||SANDERS Daniel||AUS||Gas Gas Factory Team||Gas Gas||+6’59|
|6||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team||Yamaha||+8’55|
|7||CORNEJO José Ignacio||CHI||Monster Energy Honda Team||Honda||+10’20|
|8||BENAVIDES Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||Husqvarna||+11’44|
|9||CAIMI Franco||ARG||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||Hero||+12’09|
|10||SVITKO Stefan||SLO||Slovnaft Team||KTM||+12’32|