Matthias Walkner has finished second fastest on the fourth and penultimate stage of the Rallye du Maroc. Coming in just 36 seconds behind the winner, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider regains the provisional overall lead of the event. Toby Price and Kevin Benavides brought their KTM 450 RALLY machines home in sixth and ninth places respectively, while Sam Sunderland was forced to withdraw from the stage due to illness.
Featuring the longest timed special of the event at a demanding 367.43 kilometers, stage four of the Rallye du Maroc proved to be another huge test of pace and navigational skill. Following a long liaison section, riders entered the special and were faced with a wide variety of terrain including fast, stony tracks, off-piste sections through the rocks, and an area of camel grass near the finish.
Playing catch-up on today’s stage, Matthias Walkner was the 12th rider to enter the special. Making the most of his opportunity to push and make time on the riders ahead, Matthias was immediately fast to the first checkpoint. Maintaining his focus through the varied terrain, the Austrian was able to move into the lead of the stage by the halfway point. Choosing to ease his pace towards the finish, to minimize any mistakes, the 2018 Dakar Champion ultimately claimed second to re-take the provisional rally lead.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a super long day again today. I tried my best to push right from the start because on such a long stage like this you find the pace drops off a little by the end. I wanted to catch as many people ahead as I could. This event is always one of my favorites – the terrain here really suits me with its mix of dunes, and off-pistes, and fast tracks. It’s really good for my confidence too, and I knew I would be able to make up some time today and fight for the stage win. I go into tomorrow’s final day leading the rally and as the second rider into the special. Hopefully I can make it safely to the finish without any big mistakes and fight for a place on the podium.”
Setting a good pace right from the start, Toby Price fought his way up to fifth position in the first 100 kilometers of today’s special. A small error resulted in the Australian losing around three minutes to the leaders by the midway point. Caught by rally leader Walkner after the refueling stop, the two Red Bull KTM teammates raced together from there to the finish. Claiming sixth on the stage, Price lies 14th overall in the rally standings.
Toby Price: “Day four is done – just one stage to go now. I had a pretty decent day, I made a few little mistakes near the start, before the refueling, but after I didn’t have any major issues. Matthias caught me around kilometer 220 so I let him take the lead and just tucked in behind him to the finish. We kept to a good solid pace and was able to bring it home safely. I’m feeling good, looking forward to the last stage and ready to go.”
Like many, Kevin Benavides lost time on Monday’s stage three due to a particularly tricky note in the road book. As such, the Argentinian set off 20th from the bivouac this morning. Immediately up to speed, Benavides was soon into the top 10, and by kilometer 200, had moved into fourth place. With his shoulder showing some signs of discomfort in the latter part of the long special, Kevin decided to slow his pace slightly to avoid a mistake or any complications. Delivering a ninth-place result, the reigning Dakar Champion showed he definitely has strong pace on the new KTM 450 RALLY.
Kevin Benavides: “Today I started quite far back, so my plan was to push hard right from the start. Up until the refueling I was setting a really strong pace and making up time on the guys in front. In the second half of the stage I started to feel some pain in my shoulder again, so just eased off slightly to avoid a mistake. We made a few more positive changes to the bike and it’s definitely working – I felt even more comfortable out there. With one more day left, we’ll continue to improve things on the bike and hopefully bring it home for a good, safe finish.”
Unfortunately, after recently falling ill, Sam Sunderland was forced to withdraw from today’s stage. It is unlikely the Brit will contest stage five and hopes to be back at full fitness for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in November.
Wednesday’s fifth and final stage of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc will see riders cover a total of 444.72 kilometers, and includes and timed special of 291.19 kilometers raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – Stage 4 Rally du Maroc 2021
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 3:50:34
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:51:10 +0:36
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:53:29 +2:55
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:56:21 +5:47
5. Joaquim Rodrigues (POR), Hero, 3:56:51 +6:17
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:57:26 +6:52
9. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:00:44 +10:10
Provisional Standings – Rally du Maroc 2021 after 4 of 5 stages
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 14:47:02
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 14:47:39 +0:37
3. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 14:52:48 +5:46
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 14:54:36 +7:34
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 15:01:55 +14:53
7. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 15:20:48 +33:46
14. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 15:42:46 +55:44