After having spent a night in
the High Atlas, the competitors took an early start for the 4th stage of the
Afriquia Merzouga Rally in Morocco. This was the fastest one of this rally on
off road tracks crossing all kind of terrains. The 27 Argentinian from Salta
Kevin Benavides repeated an impressive ride, opening the track for the whole
stage. He has been the fastest on the Prologue and had won the third stage. The
HRC rider also claimed stage 4. Second at 6’18 was the Spanish Gerard Farres
from Himoinsa Racing, while Stefan Svitko closed third at 06’48. The torrid
temperatures (with the thermometer reaching 38 degrees) represented an extra
challenge to the demanding navigation, fesh fesh (Fine dust /sand that looks
like solid ground but behaves like soft mud) and the camel grass.
With one day to go, Benavides,
the overall leader, will fight with Svitko and Van Beveren. Farres, Rodrigues
and Brabec respectively 4th, 5th and 6th of the general will be also in the
game. On May 27, the 74km of the Extreme
GP in the high dunes of Erg Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi will define the winner
of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally. Part of the Dakar Challenge, the winner will
exceptionally gain also the entry for the Dakar 2017.
Now the hardest days of the
Afriquia Merzouga Rally in Morocco are over for the riders. After staying
overnight in the bivouac in the Atlas mountains on their own, the pilots went
to work on the morning of May 26 to complete the penultimate stage of the race.
Joaquim Rodrigues, riding for the newly formed Hero MotoSports Team Rally,
missed another top ten result by a couple of minutes, but the Portuguese rookie
still lies well placed in the overall standings.
Rodrigues sums up his initial
marathon experience: "My first ever (two-day) marathon stage didn´t start
that great. I got lost too many times on Wednesday and had a crash. My
navigation device broke and that was really bad. Luckily I found a fellow rider
and followed him to the bivouac. I managed to fix the bike and started today
alright. I was trying to catch the riders in front of me and got a little lost.
Still it was a pretty good ride, happy to have finished this new challenge.
Tomorrow we will end the rally with a format that should suit me. I´ll give it
my best one more time."
"Yesterday was extremely
tough," adds India´s CS Santosh, who finished Thursday´s stage in 23rd
place. "The organisers had told us it was going to be demanding and it was
for sure. They cut things short because of the weather, which was the right
decision. This morning I started well, but I made a mistake in the navigation. That
cost me a lot of time. Overall I´m happy to be back at the main bivouac. The
bike is fantastic, no problems at all. Now looking forward to the final stage,"
Friday´s closing stage five
offers a special test of 74 kilometres in length. The top riders will be sent
into the desert with a Le Mans-style start procedure. The race will be
completed after six days and 1,500 km in the town of Erfoud around noon local
PROVISIONAL RESULTS STAGE 4
1. Kevin Benavides, ARG, Honda
2. Gerard Farres Guell, SPA,
KTM +6:18 min; 3. Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM +6:48; 4. Adrien van Beveren, FRA,
Yamaha +8:11; 5. Ricky Brabec, USA, Yamaha +13:48; 12. Joaquim Rodrigues, POR,
Hero +39:49; 23. CS Santosh, IND, Hero +1:02:14
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS
1. Benavides 13:39:30 hrs
2. Svitko +3:05 min
3. van Beveren +11:36
4. Farres Guell +12:09
5. Helder Rodrigues, POR,
9. Joaquim Rodrigues +2:45:24
19. CS Santosh
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