4th Rd. Rally 2019 – Rally du Maroc (MAR)
Sam Sunderland - KTM 450 RALLY - 2019 Rally du Maroc

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Marking the fourth and final round of the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the Rally du Maroc got underway on Friday with a short 7.3-kilometre Prologue to decide the start order for Saturday’s day one. Totalling 494 kilometres, the opening stage led competitors from the city of Fes south to the bivouac located near the small oasis town of Erfoud. The stage presented participants with fast, rocky tracks and tricky to navigate riverbeds that proved a huge test for both riders and their machines.

Fresh from being crowned 2019 World Champion, Sam Sunderland came into the Rally du Maroc with the pressure lifted from his shoulders. Nevertheless, the British rider immediately set about confirming his title by posting the third fastest Prologue time. With an advantageous start position for stage one, Sunderland continued to push on the long, hard-packed route to ultimately win the stage, close to one minute ahead of the second-placed rider.

Sam Sunderland: “Stage one was a really broken technical track with a lot of stones and blind, sharp corners so you had to pay a lot of attention all of the time. It was tough to stay focused for so long so you had to find the right balance with your speed and navigation. It was really physically hard too, on both your body and the bikes, so I’m glad to get to the finish in one piece. I’m really happy with my result and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Fastest on the Prologue, Matthias Walkner put in another excellent performance on stage one to secure the third-fastest time. The result combined with his winning Prologue time places the former Dakar winner in third overall going into Sunday’s marathon stage.

Matthias Walkner: “It was a really technical stage today – fast in places but the surface was really broken with a lot of stones. Navigation was pretty straightforward and I don’t think it was possible to make up that much time on the others, so I tried to stay safe and not make any mistakes. My result is okay and should put me in a good position for tomorrow. The bike felt great all day today, I just need to get used to these high speeds, as was the situation in Chile. I’m improving all the time though so hopefully I can keep going and get a good result at the end of the rally.”

Continuing to find his rhythm, Toby Price also excelled on the fast, demanding tracks of day one to finish fourth, a mere three seconds behind teammate Walkner. Happy with his performance and the feel onboard his KTM 450 RALLY, Toby is looking forward to the remaining four days’ racing.

Toby Price: “It’s been a good day today, I’m happy everything has gone well. Tomorrow is the marathon stage so we have to focus on looking after the bike and making it to the end of the stage without making any mistakes. All-in-all things are good – it’s nice to be out there riding and trying to get used to the new road book system. I’m pleased with my result today, the bike is working great – exciting times!”

Despite feeling unwell, Luciano Benavides was able to maintain a solid pace on stage one and by sticking to a fast, but safe rhythm the young Argentinian posted the seventh-fastest time. With the marathon stage ahead of him, Benavides knows he must conserve both himself and his bike in order to defend his top-five position in the provisional standings.

Luciano Benavides: “Today was a really tough day for me today. I am battling with my body because I have the flu right now. Overall, I am pleased with how I rode the stage because I didn’t lose many minutes and managed to stay within the front group. I would like to stay in this position over the next few days. Tomorrow is the marathon stage so we need to look after the bike and tyres, hopefully I am feeling a little better so I can push and get another good finish.”

The KTM Factory Racing pairing of Laia Sanz and Mario Patrao both completed the long, physical stage without incident. Sanz, making use of the rough stage to test suspension settings, placed 19th, with teammate Patrao 27th.

Laia Sanz: “My day was good – the stage was quite fast and technical so I tried to stay safe and get to the finish without making any mistakes. I was able to test a few things on the bike for Dakar, which is the main goal for me. I’m pleased with my result inside the top-20 as all the top riders are here at this event and my times are not too far behind the leaders. I’ll keep focused for the remaining four days and hopefully finish with a good, solid result.”

Stage two of the 2019 Rally du Maroc – the first half of the event’s marathon stage – heads east from the bivouac near Erfoud and covers a distance of 435 kilometres. The timed special totals a demanding 386 kilometres.

Provisional Results – Stage 1 Rally du Maroc 2019

1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:16:41
2. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:17:33 +52 seconds
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:18:49 +2:08
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:18:52 +2:11
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 3:16:16 +3:41
Other KTM
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:20:30 +3:49
19. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:30:00 +13:19
27. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 3:40:29 +23:48

Provisional Standings – Rally du Maroc 2019 after 1 of 5 stages

1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:42:45
2. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:43:53 +1:08
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:44:37 +1:52
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:45:00 +2:15
5. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:46:38 +3:53
Other KTM
19. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:57:32 +14:47
28. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 4:12:37 +29:52

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