KTM primed after successful prologue on Rally Morocco
|Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland have posted the three fastest times on the short, 10-kilometre Prologue stage of the 2018 Rally du Maroc. KTM Factory Racing rider Luciano Benavides successfully completed the timed special in 10th.|
Held near the city of Fes in the north east of Morocco, the Prologue marked the opening day of racing at the 2018 Rally du Maroc. The 47 kilometres covered by the riders included a short 10 kilometre timed special held on fast, but extremely slippery terrain. The results of this sprint decide the start order for Friday’s Stage One.
Coming into this final round of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship just eight points down on the leader, Toby Price is aiming to claim as many points from the event as possible, including stage wins. Flying on the Moroccan dirt, Price posted the fastest time on the stage, 10 seconds ahead of the second-placed rider. Earning himself first pick of the start order for tomorrow’s stage, the 2016 Dakar Rally Champion has given himself the best advantage possible as he starts the rally.
Toby Price: “It was a really tricky, slippery stage today but I’ve come out with the win so I’m happy with that and get first pick for tomorrow. It doesn’t make too much difference to the overall rally, but it’s nice to know my pace is good and the plan is to push on again tomorrow and hopefully get another good result.”
Second fastest on the Prologue was Matthias Walkner. With his KTM 450 RALLY performing perfectly, the Austrian rider enjoyed riding the stage and also looks forward to an advantageous start position for Friday’s 489-kilometre Stage One.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a good day today, I started third and already there were lots of small stones everywhere that made the stage extremely tricky. I am very happy with my performance though and didn’t make any silly mistakes. The goal was always to arrive in the top-three, so second fastest is great. Tomorrow’s stage doesn’t look too bad navigation-wise but you never know. It’s been a good start to the rally nut there are five long days ahead.”
Close to full fitness following the injury he sustained to his foot at the Atacama Rally in August, Sam Sunderland was able to push hard on the day’s special stage and claim the third fastest time. Out of the championship chase due to the rounds missed during the year, Sam’s main goal in Morocco is to fight for a good result while building back up his strength and rhythm ahead of the Dakar Rally in just three months’ time.
Sam Sunderland: “That was a good stage, it was only short but gave me my first taste of proper racing since I broke my foot a couple of months ago. It’s nice to get back in a good rhythm and third fastest is not so bad. The bike was feeling great and I am really enjoying riding right now. I’ve got a good start position for tomorrow and I’m looking forward to the week ahead.”
KTM Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides rode a solid Prologue stage to finish 10th fastest. The young Argentinian continues to work on his pace onboard his KTM 450 RALLY, with the Rally du Maroc marking just his third competitive outing since breaking his back at the 2018 Dakar Rally last January.
Luciano Benavides: “I felt really good today and it’s nice to get a little more confidence back. It was only 10 kilometres, so the main focus is the next five days. I think my goal will be the same though, to ride smooth and consistent and finish the rally healthy and well.”
Friday’s Stage One of the Rally du Maroc will see riders leave Fes and head for Erfoud in the Sahara Desert. The stage comprises a total of 489 kilometres, 167 of which is timed special.
Results – Prologue Stage 2018 Rally du Maroc
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 8:47