Following a strong and well-calculated performance on the first long rally stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla has posted the fourth fastest time in stage one of the event. Putting himself in an advantageous position for Tuesday’s stage two, the Chilean rally star has his eyes set on climbing even higher in the rally’s provisional overall standings.

Living up to everyone’s expectations, stage one of this year’s Merzouga Rally included some tricky navigation in the dunes of Morocco. Making full use of his vast experience reigning Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Quintanilla remained calm and collective throughout the 206km-long special stage. Securing third on stage one, the FR 450 Rally powered rider has earned a good starting position for Tuesday’s stage two.

For Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Andrew Short, stage one of the Merzouga Rally has been a big learning experience. Faced with the demanding task of opening the tracks for a considerable part of the timed special, the American brought his Husqvarna home in 10th position. Continuing to learn and make progress, Short is looking forward to the remaining four stages of the rally in the dunes of Morocco.

Stage two of the 2018 Merzouga Rally features a timed special of 175km that merges faster tracks with some tough dune sections. Made up of two loops in the northern and southern part of Merzouga, it is expected to be a physically demanding stage.

Pablo Quintanilla: “It was a difficult day and I’m happy with fourth in the stage. There are some small differences in the roadbook compared to what we’re used to from the World Championship, so it took me some time to get used to it. There were many notes put together and lots of technical trails with demanding navigation. Despite a few small mistakes I had a good pace and managed to get a good result at the end. I’m satisfied with the way things have started here in Morocco and I’m looking forward to the stages to come. I have a good starting position for tomorrow and my goal is to take advantage of it to make up some time. The race will be long and I know that in some places it’s better to slow down and pay attention to my navigation instead of going flat out. My goal is to remain focused and continue pushing for a good result.”

Andrew Short: “It felt great to be back racing a real rally stage. The day was quite adventurous for me as I found myself leading out some tracks for 45 kilometres. It sure was a great day and I’m happy I got to experience the feeling of being up front. At one point I got a bit lost but managed to get back on the right tracks and continue towards the finish. It was a good learning experience. Right before the end there were many side-by-side vehicles and you had to take some risks to make passes. Trying to make a pass I had a crash in the dunes but was lucky to escape with no major damage. I’m very happy to bring it home in one piece and still be in the hunt for a good overall result.”

Download high-res images from the 2018 Merzouga Rally here.

2018 Merzouga Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 03:15:58
2. Franco Caimi (Yamaha) 03:21:01
3. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 03:27:23
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 03:28:15
5. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 03:28:44
6. Juan Pedrero (Sherco) 03:30:21

10. Andrew Short (Husqvarna) 03:42:12

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