MOTOCROSSTIME - NEWS FROM KTM RACING
Day one’s 12.16km SuperStage was held on the outskirts of the city of Fes, made up of smooth, narrow tracks with steep slopes and blind crests. The stage provided a number of challenges for the riders with some sections offering little traction and being hard to read.
Sam Sunderland came into the Moroccan race just six points behind current championship leader Pablo Quintanilla, and looking to challenge for both the event and championship win. At home in the soft sand of Morocco, Sunderland still has a good chance of taking the championship if he can secure victory at the OiLibya Rally. The SuperStage could not have gone better for the British rider, who put in an impressive performance to take the win.
Sunderland: “I had a really good ride today, the stage was only short but I had a good feeling on the bike. Some of the route was a little dangerous in places with blind-rises and some hidden corners, but overall it was ok and I am happy with my time. There are five tough days ahead starting with the first full stage tomorrow. I am feeling comfortable with the bike so I just have to do my best and hopefully it will come good at the end.”
Matthias Walkner matched his team-mate’s time on the special stage. The Austrian, although finding the stage tricky in places, was pleased with his pace.
Walkner: “I am happy with my time today on what was quite a difficult stage. Although it was only 12km there were a few parts that were quite dangerous. We have a long way to go so I need to stay focused on these five days ahead and hopefully we can pick up a good result.”
KTM Rally Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz put in an extremely strong performance on the short SuperStage. Finishing fifth, a mere 26 seconds off Sunderland’s time, Sanz got her Moroccan rally off to a great start.
Sanz: “I really enjoyed today. There is nothing better than when you have a good feeling with your bike and everything goes well. The stage was short, but I’m so happy with my result. I’m looking forward to the rest of the rally.”
Antoine Meo has missed the last two rounds of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. Returning to action here in Morocco, the Frenchman planned on building up his pace and navigation skills ahead of the Dakar in January. His pace however was excellent on the SuperStage, Meo posted the fastest stage time of the day. Unfortunately, an error in one of the speed-checks caused him to incur a six-minute penalty. Nevertheless, Antoine was encouraged with how the day had gone.
Meo: “My feeling with the bike was good today. The stage turned out to be quite slippery and dangerous but my pace was good. Unfortunately, I made a silly mistake in the speed check so I’ll have to take a penalty. Other than that I’m happy with how things have gone after such a long time away from racing. I need to work on reading the road book more accurately and I know the next five days will be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Relative newcomer to the team, Luciano Benavides rode a solid day. After breaking his collar bone at the previous round in Argentina, Benavides rode sensibly, minimising the chance of any mistakes, to finish 22nd.
Friday’s stage, the longest of the rally at 859.14km, will take riders from the city of Fes to Erfoud. Made up of rocky dirt tracks through valleys and riverbeds, the stage will require excellent navigation skills and good endurance.
The 2017 OiLibya Rally is the fifth and final round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. Second only to the Dakar in terms of size, the Moroccan rally is one of the toughest on the championship calendar.