Marking the second half of the event’s marathon stage, and also including the longest special of the event at 331km, stage three of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan proved to be a tough test for all.
Sam Sunderland faired best on the stage taking a 2 minute stage win ahead of Adrien Van Beveren and Ross Branch.
The leader going into stage three Matthias Walkner made a small mistake that cost the Austrian racer over 10 minutes while trying to get back on track. Also concerned with the stress on his rear tire, Walkner chose to ease his pace and bring it home safely for a strong start on Saturday’s stage four.
With no outside assistance allowed overnight, riders had to conserve their machines over the two days to ensure their safe arrival back to the bivouac, at the end of day three. Again facing a wide variety of terrain, competitors navigated their way through gravel tracks and fast, open desert, before a more technical section led them onto 10km of dunes to finish the stage.
Lying sixth overall coming into stage three, Sam Sunderland knew he had to push to make up time on his rivals. With an advantageous start position, the Brit was able to catch and pass a number of riders ahead of him while maintaining a strong, but safe pace on the high-speed pistes. With the combined distance of the marathon stage totaling over 600km, Sam also knew that preserving his tires would be necessary, especially in the closing kilometers of the special. Despite slowing towards the end, Sunderland completed the stage over two minutes ahead of his nearest competitor and now lies fourth overall in the provisional rally standings.
“So the marathon stage is done, and it was quite a tough one, especially as it was one of the longest specials of the race,” Sunderland explained. “It was hot out there today, and you never feel quite as good on the second half of the marathon stage anyway. I tried to keep a good pace and with about 80 kilometers to go I saw Skyler had a problem with his mousse. I knew then I had to slow things down a little to be able to make the finish, especially in the faster sections. When we got back into the sand, I was able to push on again to get a good result. I’m happy to win the stage, but there’s still work to do so hopefully I can have another good day opening the stage tomorrow.”
Adrien Van Beveren claimed his best stage result of the rally so far with a second-place finish. The Frenchman rode his own race and put his navigational skills to good use to secure his impressive runner-up result. Van Beveren’s strong form and consistency this week has elevated him to second place in the provisional standings.
“It was another really fast stage today, so keeping focused was really important,” Van Beveren said. “The marathon stage was challenging and I’m really happy to have completed it with no issues for myself or my bike. My navigation was good today, and this really helped me to achieve such a strong result. I’ll be approaching the remaining days with the same focus and the same mentality to maintain my pace and stay up front. Another great day for me and the team so everything is going really well.”
Ross Branch had the unenviable task of opening the stage with the other leading riders. Unfazed by the task in front of him, Ross focused on himself, brought his navigational skills to the fore and completed the stage as the third fastest rider and as a result. After three consecutive stage results inside the top four, Branch now sits on top of the overall provisional classification with a near six-and-a-half-minute lead.
“Mixed emotions today,” Branch said. “The stage was going really well but I had a small issue with the mousse in my tyre near the end. I was able to complete the stage, that was main thing, but I lost a little bit of time. I’m in the lead though so overall it was a pretty good end to the marathon stage. I’m happy to be back with the team, they’ll prepare the bike for tomorrow and we’re in a really good place so I’m looking forward to the next two days and keep doing what we’re doing and see where we end up.”
Hero’s Franco Caimi and American Andrew Short rounded out the top five.
The building process continues for Daniel Sanders, completing the stage ninth fastest rider, he maintains his seventh-place position in the event’s overall provisional classification. With two days of racing to go and with Sanders only three days into just his third ever rally, every stage is providing valuable experience for our young
“It was another fast one today. I’m getting there with the high speed, hardpack conditions and it’s still only my third ever rally so I can’t be too disappointed,” Sanders said. “It’s not quite where I want to be, but I know that I need to have some patience and this is a learning year for me. I know it’ll all come good so it’s just a case of taking it step-by-step, day-by-day and we’ll soon be up there with the front guys.”
With tomorrow’s penultimate stage taking place on sandy terrain, it’s Sanders’ chance to shine. As the ninth rider to enter the special, he’ll be able to get on the gas from the start of the 309-kilometer stage and follow in the wheel tracks of the leading riders. After that, just one day of racing remains!
Rally Kazakhstan 2021: Stage 3 Provisional Classification
1 Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:38:18
2 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 3:40:26 + 0:02:08
3 Ross Branch (Yamaha) 3:41:48 + 0:03:30
4 Franco Caimi (Hero) 3:42:45 + 0:04:27
5 Andrew Short (Yamaha) 3:44:47 + 0:06:29
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:44:56 + 0:06:38
7 Sebastian Buhler, (HERO), +06m 42s
8 Joaquim Rodrigues, (HERO), +08m 28s
9 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:50:03
Rally Kazakhstan 2021: Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 3)
1 Ross Branch (Yamaha) 9:45:46
2 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 9:52:13 + 0:06:27
3 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 9:53:08 + 0:07:22
4 Sam Sunderland (KTM) 9:54:01 + 0:08:15
5 Andrew Short (Yamaha) 10:04:25 + 0:18:39
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 10:17:24 + 0:31:38
7 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 10:18:20
8 Franco Caimi, (HERO), +7hr 36m 16s
9 Sebastian Buhler, (HERO), +7hr 39m 32s
10 Joaquim Rodrigues, (HERO), +7hr 44m 10s