Courtesy of KTM Racing
Toby Price and Laia Sanz have both finished within the top-five on the penultimate stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Price completed the 233km timed special in fourth with a time that elevated him to second in the provisional overall standings. KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz placed just behind her team-mate posting the fifth fastest time.
The fourth and penultimate stage of the Merzouga Rally marked the second half of the event’s two-part marathon stage. After completing Wednesday’s tough 241km stage three, riders stayed overnight in the temporary bivouac before heading out onto today’s stage four, having received no technical assistance from their teams.
Competitors not only had to face the usual changes in terrain and difficult navigation associated with the rally, but also had to conserve their machinery in order to endure the 475km of timed special raced over the course of the two days.
Following another tough day in the Moroccan desert on the first half of the marathon stage yesterday, Toby Price set off from the bivouac at 6.30am this morning on the short liaison section that led to the start of the stage four special. Again, concentrating on his own navigation and the conservation of his bike and tyres, Price put in a superb performance catching and ultimately passing the three riders ahead of him to be the first to arrive at the finish.
By minimising any mistakes on the stage, the former Australian Enduro Champion was able to make up valuable time on the leaders of the rally. His fourth place on today’s stage moves him up to second overall with just the short 50km, mass-start final stage to go.
Toby Price: “The marathon stage has been a tough ride. Yesterday went well, apart from a couple of small navigation errors that cost me some time, I kept to a good pace and arrived safely at the bivouac. Things went well today, a couple of the guys in front made quite a serious mistake missing a waypoint and that cost them a bit of time. I was close to repeating their mistake but managed to correct myself, and eventually crossed the line first with the fourth fastest time. Second overall is great with just tomorrow’s short 50km stage to go. My aim for tomorrow is just ride sensibly to finish the rally in one piece and if I can hold onto the runner-up spot I’ll be happy.”
KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz rode a fantastic marathon stage. Staying consistent while focusing on not making any errors paid off for the multiple world champion as she posted the fifth fastest time on today’s stage four – a testament to her hard work and experience. With just one more stage to contest, Laia lies 13th overall and is keen to improve her final ranking with a good result tomorrow.
Laia Sanz: “I am really happy with today, I concentrated again on my navigation and it worked well – it’s nice to get a good result after so much hard work. We have been testing a lot of things with the bike and it all seems to be heading in a positive direction – it’s great to get good feedback on a tough rally like this. The marathon stage has been hard, yesterday was especially long and tiring but today has gone better and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s short stage and then the finish of the rally.”
Tomorrows stage five, the final of the rally, will see riders start in a group before heading out into the short 50km stage. Consisting of 100 per cent dunes, tomorrows special will still require ultimate concentration and good navigation.
Provisional Results Stage Four – 2018 Merzouga Rally
1. Allessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 3:23:31
2. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:27:15 +3:44
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:32:03 +8:32
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:35:25 +11:54
5. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:41:47 +18:16
Provisional Overall Results – 2018 Merzouga Rally after 4 of 5 stages
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 13:26:49
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 13:31:51 +5:02
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 13:33:20 +6:31
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 13:34:05 +7:16
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 13:38:04 +11:15
13. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 14:52:12 +1:25:23