Sanders Wins, Walkner Leads

Posted on October 12, 2021

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.

There may not be a better way of bouncing back from a difficult day of rally racing than by winning the very next stage! That’s exactly what Daniel Sanders has done on the penultimate leg of the Rally Du Maroc. Picking up his pace throughout the incredibly technical special, Sanders delivered what is undoubtedly his best ride of the event so far and now lies third in the overall provisional classification.

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.

Daniel Sanders: “I got the win, which is sick! Today I didn’t make any major mistakes and with the tricky navigation, you really had to focus. For sure I went offline a few times but what was encouraging for me was that I got back on track quickly. The stage had a bit of everything today, which added to the challenge, and it seemed like every 20 minutes we were into something different whether it was sand, hardpack roads, or rocky sections. I’m now in a pretty good position overall and tomorrow I’ll lead out so I’m excited for the challenge and hope to end this rally with a strong result.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Ricky Brabec: Today was a long day and maybe it wasn't the day to open. We lost a bit of time but we still have a day to go and we're seven minutes off first place. We can make a good push and maybe get onto the podium tomorrow: that will be the plan. It's been good training ahead of the Dakar. We'll keep our hopes up and push for one more day. Today I opened a large part of the day and we had the same track as the previous days, but with a lot of detours which made it very confusing. We will keep pushing tomorrow.     

José Ignacio Cornejo: At the start I felt pretty confident as we were going over tracks from the previous days. At kilometre 8 I didn't see a large pothole, I went in hard and lost control, taking a heavy blow to my chest area. I felt a bit sore, but I kept going until the refuelling. In the second part, when I cooled down, it was causing me a lot of pain and I had to slow things down considerably. But I made it to the finish. I’m going to try to recover so that I will be able to finish the rally tomorrow.

Pablo Quintanilla: We finished the penultimate stage of the race and like almost every other day, it was a long and hard stage. I'm happy, I felt great, with a good pace and without any navigation mistakes and that's very important for my confidence. I'm second in the general standings, just slightly behind the first. Tomorrow we will go out to do our best on this last day. There will be less than 200 kilometres and so we’ll have to see what happens.

Joan Barreda: I started from a bit further back today, but today it was a very fast stage. It wasn't easy because there were some complicated areas, but I managed to find all the waypoints. I rode with Skyler for most of the day and it was positive. The objective was to ride and experiment with things on the bike and I think that this, as well as the previous week that we had here, has been some top quality training in the desert.

Adrien Van Beveren: “I would say that today was my best stage of the rally so far and I’m really pleased with my performance. On paper, it may not look like this, but after starting the stage fourth, I caught the leading riders, passed them, and then I opened the stage. It took some time to find a couple of the waypoints, which is normal when you’re the first rider, but overall, I’m really happy with my navigation and my pace today. It’s been a long stage and at the end I was still feeling really strong on my bike. So, overall it’s been a great day for me and I’m looking forward to the final stage tomorrow.”

Andrew Short: “Riding wise, it was fun today. Early on I was able to ride with Adrien, which was cool but I didn’t quite have the pace to push forward and I ended up riding in a lot of dust. It was a technical stage with lots of rocks and tricky navigation so it was by no means an easy day. Overall, I’m happy to complete another stage here in Morocco and I’m looking forward to a strong finish tomorrow.”

Skyler Howes: “Stage four was a much better day for me. We made a setting change yesterday and it was definitely positive – I felt much more like myself today. I did do a couple of donuts there out in the dunes looking for a waypoint and that cost me a couple of minutes, but on the whole I had a trouble-free day. We still have a couple of adjustments to make with the settings, but we’re definitely going in the right direction. I had a lot of fun on the stage today, so with one day left, I’m looking forward to it.”

Luciano Benavides: “It was another really long day today. Thankfully, I’m feeling better from the illness I had earlier in the week, and I was able to stay focused and keep to a good pace. I was riding up near the front and did make a couple of mistakes that cost me some time, but overall I’m happy with my performance. The bike is feeling great, there are still a couple of things we can work on, but this is normal. I’m looking forward to the final day now and getting to the finish.”

Stage 4 Provisional Classification

1. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:50:34

2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:51:10 + 0:00:36

3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:53:29 + 0:02:55

4. Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:56:21 + 0:05:47

5. Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 3:56:51 + 0:06:17

6. Toby Price (KTM) 3:57:26 + 0:06:52

7. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:58:05

8. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 4:00:39 + 0:10:05

9. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:00:44 +10:10

10. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 4:03:39

Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 4)

1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 14:47:02

2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 14:47:39 + 0:00:37

3. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 14:52:48 + 0:05:46

4. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 14:54:36 + 0:07:34

5. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 15:01:55 + 0:14:53

6. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 15:13:43 + 0:26:41

7. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 15:20:48 +33:46

8. Joaquim Rodrigues POR Motorsports Team +36'13

9. Andrew Short (Yamaha) 15:23:26 + 0:36:24

10 Cornejo José Ignacio Monster Energy Honda +39'19