RALLYE DU MAROC 2021
EVERYTHING STILL TO PLAY FOR
No major sand sections on the menu for this fourth stage. While there were a few small ergs to cross, David Castera’s team were more focused on linking new tracks to historic Dakar pistes from times gone by. This was especially the case for last fifty kilometres of the track to Foum Zguid. As Ricky Brabec discovered to his cost, navigation played a central role in today’s result.
Stage 4: A mix of old and new
L1: 118 / SS: 367 / L2 : 61 – Total : 546 (Moto FIM / Auto FIA)
L1: 118 / SS: 337 / L2 : 75 – Total : 530 (Enduro Cup / Quad / SSV / Open)
At yesterday evening’s briefing David Castera warned competitors to take care today with the navigation when coming across rally tracks from previous days. And inevitably it was the man who opened this morning, Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) who paid the highest price. His overall lead this morning of 10:27, has this evening been transformed into a 07:34 deficit. Ricky is of course still in with a chance, but not as big a one as teammate Pablo Quintanilla. Second overall this morning at 10:27, this evening the Chilean is just 37 seconds behind leader Matthias Walkner (Red Bull KTM Factory) and will start the last day third on the road just behind the ex-Dakar winner. The Austrian will also be fighting hard for the podium, while taking care of his world championship ambitions. Winning his first stage today on his Rallye du Maroc debut, the young Australian Daniel Sanders (Gas Gas Factory Racing) will also be pushing hard to keep his podium place, his chances possibly increased by the organisers decision to shorten tomorrow’s special from 291 km to 166. Slightly less suspense in Rally2 thanks to the domination of the category by the rookie American Mason Klein (BAS Dakar KTM) who celebrates his 20th birthday today. He again won the day 6:54 ahead of Bradley Cox (BAS Dakar KTM) with Benji Melot (Esprit KTM) third at 16:30.
In the cars, for the first time since the start of the rally, someone other than Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) won a stage, with honours going to Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) and his co-driver Michael Orr. Third was Jakub Przygonski (X-Raid Mini) at 02:30. It means that Nasser will start second tomorrow, perfectly positioned to keep an eye on his closest rival and protect his 11:21 lead. In T3 the overall leader Cristina Gutierrez ran into transmission problems and pulled out of the special accompanied by her Red Bull Off-Road Junior teammate Seth Quintero. T3 victory on the stage went to Pavel Lebedev (Moscow Rally Team). In T4 no less than 7 SSVs between 12th and 18th place on today’s special separated by just over 4 minutes ! And it was the rookie Lithuanian Rokas Baciuska (South Racing) who won to take his first rally raid special, just 25 seconds ahead of teammate Michal Goczal.
Back in 2014 Vanessa Ruck got knocked off her bicycle and ended up having 7 operations to rebuild her shoulder and hip. Her initial goal was to ‘get better’ and ‘pain free’. Eventually she was forced into the realisation that she’d have to lower her expectations and learn to live with the pain. By her own admission ‘it’s been a rollercoaster’, both physically and mentally. In her search for tools to help her come to terms with her new reality motorcycling turned out to be one of the most useful distractions. Like many before her she initially started on road bikes before being seduced by the adrenaline rush of riding off-road. This summer she successfully completed the Iron class of the Romaniacs. Two weeks ago she completed her first desert race, the Qatar International Baja. This week she’s racing her first rally-raid…. Something else that has helped her come to grips with her life changing injuries is visiting schools and talking to the pupils alongside her Project Dakar teammate Tim Bradshaw. Together they have tried to pass on some of the strategies they have come up with to overcome adversity #becauseican.
STAT OF THE DAY : 6
Is the record number of victories on the Rally du Maroc… and it is held by a co-driver. Frenchman Mathieu Baumel has one more victory than his team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing). If Nasser can hope to equal this record tomorrow by winning his 6th crown in Morocco, Mathieu will inevitably receive his 7th. Unless the Gazoo Racing driver pushes him out of the cockpit before the finish line ! For Mathieu, who won in 2011 with Bernhard Ten Brinke (Mitsubishi), it will be the 10th anniversary of his first victory. Among the drivers, Nasser is the most capped in the Rallye du Maroc with 5 titles in a row from 2014 to 2018. Giniel De Villiers and Cyril Despres have won 4 times while Peterhansel, Schlesser and Coma have each won 3 times.
THE RALLY DU MAROC AND ME
Jakub Przygonski (X-Raid Mini)
“Oh a long time ago – 2009. I was 25 years old.”
“It was one of my first cross country rallies. When it is your first time in the desert it is a shock, the terrain, the road book, everything is new. But I really enjoyed it because there’s a lot of different types of terrain, stones, sand, camel grass. I was riding a KTM 690 in the Orlen Team but we had support from the factory. Before that I had been riding moto-x and enduro. In total I raced bikes for 16 years and I’ve been racing cars for 6 years.”
Pablo Quintanilla (Monster Energy Honda) : 3rd at 02:55 and 2nd overall at 00:37
“Today was a really good stage for me. I felt confident with my speed all day, really focused on the road book and didn’t make any mistakes. Every day the feeling is better. This is the first race I do in open desert with the bike. Now I have a good position for tomorrow and I’m feeling motivated.”
Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) : 17th at 20:19 and 4th overall at 07:34
“I opened more of less the whole day and I didn’t have any teammates close to me to help. We crossed many tracks from the last two days which made the navigation really tricky and I made two big errors. Now I’m 7 minutes down going into the last day. Hopefully the guys opening tomorrow will make a little mistake or go a little bit slow. Tomorrow we’re going to try and do our best and get on the podium.”
Daniel Sanders (Gas Gas Factory Racing) : 1st and 3rd overall at 05:46
“I started back in 14th but you still had to be really precise with the navigation and keep the mistakes to the minimum. When I could push I pushed. I’ll be opening tomorrow so a lot of pressure but I’m excited to see how it works out.”
Matthias Walkner (Red Bull KTM Factory) : 2nd at 00:36 and 1st overall
“Another super long day. I tried from the beginning to push really hard. The Rallye du Maroc is one of my favourite races. A really nice mix of navigation, some off-piste, some dunes, fast piste. Tomorrow is the show down and I’ll be happy if I can stay on the podium, make some good points (for the championship) and don’t take too many risks.”
Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) : 2nd at 1 :39 and 1st overall
“We didn’t want to open on the last day so this morning we started off gently. And then we made a small navigation error that cost us a minute or two. At 224 km we were able to work out the times and saw that Yazeed had pulled back almost 5 minutes and Kuba 2 so over the last part of the special we decided to up the pace a little. All in all perfect for tomorrow. The plan will be to come up to Yazeed’s dust and stay behind him.”
Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) : 1st and 2nd overall at 11:21
“Sure very happy. We win today’s stage. Lucky day for us, not any punctures not any problem and also Michael did a great job. When the car works well and everything work well we can win stages. We have the speed and we have the experience. Just need some luck.”
Jakub Przygonski (X-Raid Mini) : 3rd at 02:30 and 30th overall at 4h43:42
“It was good day. We caught Nasser in the middle of the stage and then drove with Nasser and Yazeed. Then a little in moto-x mode. It was quite a hard stage but we enjoyed it.”
Rokas Baciuska (South Racing) : 1st T3 and 17th overall at 2h56:03
“Actually I didn’t expect to win a stage here in Morocco. This is the first time I see the dunes. I come from Rallycross. Here it is really crazy, really close between the top 3 guys. You do 300 kms and you’re separated by 20 seconds. But we managed to get up there with them and we’re really happy. The plan for tomorrow is full attack.”
For logistical reasons the 291 km special initially scheduled for tomorrow has been cut to 166 kms.
Distances : L1: 142 / SS: 166 / L2 : 143 – Total : 412