Featuring the longest timed special of the event, the 604-kilometer stage three proved to be a real challenge for all competitors. With the section raced against the clock covering over 341 kilometers, and made up of fast, stony tracks to the northeast of the bivouac town of Zagora, the stage delivered incredibly tricky navigation that caught out many of those riding near the front.
Opening today’s special thanks to his winning performance on Sunday’s stage two, Matthias Walkner set out to lead the riders from start to finish – a task he accomplished despite being the first to encounter a difficult road book note in the latter kilometers of the stage. Losing time to some of his rivals, Walkner completed the stage in 13th, and now lies fourth in the provisional rally standings.
Matthias Walkner: “Overall I’m happy with how today went. My goal was to open the whole stage and reach the finish in front, which I was able to do. Up until about kilometer 250 I hadn’t really made any mistakes. I wanted to really concentrate on my navigation and manage my pace, so I didn’t go too wrong. I think I did a really good job, and the bike was perfect on the tracks today. Towards the end there was a really tricky note in the road book, I took my time and thought I had made the right decision, but in the end, I had to double back about five kilometers, find my way again and validate the waypoint. I lost some time, but I was still able to reach the finish first, so all in all I’m quite pleased.”
Finishing just over one minute ahead of teammate Walkner, Toby Price showed strong pace throughout the day’s 341-kilometer special. Falling foul of the same note that caught out many riders, Toby was able to get back on track relatively quickly to complete the stage 11th fastest.
Toby Price: “Day three has gone well, we’re not trying to do anything too crazy, just get some good race time on the bike. Yeah, we all had a little issue there later on after the refueling, the drawing on the road book just didn’t seem quite right and it caught a lot of the guys out. But on a positive note, we’re making good progress on the new bike, getting really comfortable on it, and definitely going in the right direction. The plan is to stay healthy and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Maintaining a solid pace on the rough Moroccan tracks, Sam Sunderland continues to test, evaluate, and develop the new 2022 KTM 450 RALLY. The British rider is also using the time on the bike to get back up to speed following the injury that forced him out of Rally Kazakhstan. Happy with his performance, Sunderland is hoping for a strong second half of the rally.
Sam Sunderland: “On the whole I had a good day today. We tried out some new suspension settings on the bike and that took a little while to get used to, but after that I was able to stay at a good pace. I reached the point around kilometer 250 where a lot of the others were struggling and lost a little time myself, but I was able to bring it home soon after. We’ve learned a bit more today, we’re definitely making progress, and I’m looking forward to the days ahead.”
Struggling with the same road book note that caught out so many, Kevin Benavides brought his KTM 450 RALLY home in 20th place. Despite the result not being what he had hoped, the 2021 Dakar Champion continues to make good progress in his first competitive outing for the team, and on the new bike.
Kevin Benavides: “Today’s stage three was a little bit complicated at the end. At the beginning I made a small mistake that was all my fault, but the issue towards the end of the day caught a lot of people out, I think. I must have done an extra 15 kilometers trying to get back to the proper route, so it wasn’t the best day for me, and I lost quite some time.”
Tuesday’s stage four will see riders complete another looped stage leaving and returning to Zagora. The 546-kilometer total distance covered will include a timed special of 367 kilometers.
Provisional Results – Stage 3 Rally du Maroc 2021
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:30:32
2. Sebastian Buhler (POR), Hero, 3:32:36 +2:04
3. Andrew Short (USA), Yamaha, 3:35:56 +5:24
4. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:36:18 +5:46
5. Franco Caimi (ARG), Hero, 3:36:44 +6:12
11. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:42:21 +11:49
12. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:43:05 +12:33
13. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:43:41 +13:09
20. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:55:35 +25:03
Provisional Standings – Rally du Maroc 2021 after 3 of 5 stages
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 10:43:43
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 10:53:25 +9:42
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 10:54:10 +10:27
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 10:55:52 +12:09
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 11:01:16 +17:33
9. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 11:14:25 +30:42
12. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 11:20:04 +36:21
16. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 11:45:20 +1:01:37