A tricky yet positive day for Monster Energy Honda Team on the penultimate day of the Merzouga Rally. Joan Barreda continues to command the race overall, while Paulo Gonçalves performed well on the day, finishing second and moving up one place in the general standings.

With just the final day of the Merzouga Rally still to run, Joan Barreda is in a solid position to claim overall victory tomorrow. Today saw the fourth stage – the second leg of the marathon stage – in which riders were unable to receive mechanical assistance until they arrived back at the Tombouctou Hotel camp once the 372-kilometre stage had been completed. The stage served up a combination of dunes, sands, stony ground and trial-like areas. On the way riders had to tackle dust-filled Moroccan track and a final section which caused many riders serious navigation problems with the main group riding around in circles in search of an elusive waypoint.Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Joan-Barreda

Joan Barreda, starting out from first place, was eventually caught by Kevin Benavides, who battled hard throughout the day. The pair rode virtually together until the final waypoint where they were reached by another group of competitors including Brabec and Cornejo. Barreda finished the day ninth, Benavides took sixth and Brabec third. Paulo Gonçalves, who started from behind was able to make up time to finish runner-up on the day, climbing a place in the overall rankings in the process. José Ignacio Cornejo’s stage was inconvenienced by a navigation error which saw him finish thirteenth.

Barreda continues to lead the overall standings some four minutes ahead of the second place rival. Benavides lies third and Ricky Brabec, who moved up two positions, is fourth, some seven minutes off Barreda. Cornejo, despite today’s mistake is sixth and Gonçalves eighth.

The final stage of this Merzouga Rally will have a motocross style start in line before completing a full loop in the Erg Chebbi. The motorcycle riders will start out after the buggies and quads on a 206.71-kilometre stage, 100% of which will be fought out in the dunes.

Paulo Goncalves

STAGE: 2nd – OVERALL: 8th

“This second part of the marathon stage was quite complicated, with sand and dunes and even rocks, with some parts like a trial ride, where we were forced to push the bike. It was very tough physically. I continued with a fairly calm pace and toward the end there was a complicated part of navigation where a lot of the riders in front couldn’t locate. I kept up a good pace and I hope to keep it in the final stage tomorrow. The team is very focused and determined to get the best possible result.”

Ricky Brabec

STAGE: 3rd – OVERALL: 4th

“The second day of the marathon went pretty well. I like this terrain a lot more than the sand dunes, the rocky stuff is definitely better than the dunes. I felt good today and rode well. I caught the rest from the speed and the navigation. I made less mistakes today and that paid off very well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow which is a mass start. I’m happy to be here and ready for the final day.”

Joan Barreda

STAGE: 9th – OVERALL: 1st

“It was a day in which we tried to control the race, but in the end it was more complicated than usual. We had difficulty finding a waypoint seven km from the finish line. We were there, at the point, but it just didn’t seem to add up and we ended up spending forty minutes to find it. Other riders arrived and in the end we found the position. We believe there was an error in the roadbook note. We were able to save the day despite losing some time and we’ll have to see what happens in the end. Tomorrow is the final day.”Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Joan-Barreda-02 Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Kevin-Benavides Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Kevin-Benavides-02 Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Ricky-Brabec Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Cornejo Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Paulo-Goncalves Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Paulo-Goncalves-02

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing


The fourth and penultimate stage of the Merzouga Rally marked the second half of the event’s two-part marathon stage. After completing Wednesday’s tough 241km stage three, riders stayed overnight in the temporary bivouac before heading out onto today’s stage four, having received no technical assistance from their teams.

Competitors not only had to face the usual changes in terrain and difficult navigation associated with the rally, but also had to conserve their machinery in order to endure the 475km of timed special raced over the course of the two days.

Following another tough day in the Moroccan desert on the first half of the marathon stage yesterday, Toby Price set off from the bivouac at 6.30am this morning on the short liaison section that led to the start of the stage four special. Again, concentrating on his own navigation and the conservation of his bike and tyres, Price put in a superb performance catching and ultimately passing the three riders ahead of him to be the first to arrive at the finish.

By minimising any mistakes on the stage, the former Australian Enduro Champion was able to make up valuable time on the leaders of the rally. His fourth place on today’s stage moves him up to second overall with just the short 50km, mass-start final stage to go. Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-Toby-PriceToby Price: “The marathon stage has been a tough ride. Yesterday went well, apart from a couple of small navigation errors that cost me some time, I kept to a good pace and arrived safely at the bivouac. Things went well today, a couple of the guys in front made quite a serious mistake missing a waypoint and that cost them a bit of time. I was close to repeating their mistake but managed to correct myself, and eventually crossed the line first with the fourth fastest time. Second overall is great with just tomorrow’s short 50km stage to go. My aim for tomorrow is just ride sensibly to finish the rally in one piece and if I can hold onto the runner-up spot I’ll be happy.” 

KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz rode a fantastic marathon stage. Staying consistent while focusing on not making any errors paid off for the multiple world champion as she posted the fifth fastest time on today’s stage four – a testament to her hard work and experience. With just one more stage to contest, Laia lies 13th overall and is keen to improve her final ranking with a good result tomorrow. 

Laia Sanz: “I am really happy with today, I concentrated again on my navigation and it worked well – it’s nice to get a good result after so much hard work. We have been testing a lot of things with the bike and it all seems to be heading in a positive direction – it’s great to get good feedback on a tough rally like this. The marathon stage has been hard, yesterday was especially long and tiring but today has gone better and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s short stage and then the finish of the rally.” 

Tomorrows stage five, the final of the rally, will see riders start in a group before heading out into the short 50km stage. Consisting of 100 per cent dunes, tomorrows special will still require ultimate concentration and good navigation. 



Reaching the end of a challenging two-day-long Marathon Stage without any problems, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew Short have posted the seventh and 11th fastest times respectively on the fourth stage of the 2018 Merzouga Rally. 

After more than 1,000km in the dunes and dusty trails of Morocco, Quintanilla and Short were faced with a challenging stage four at the Merzouga Rally. Enjoying a solid start to the day’s timed special they were among a large group of racers who lost the correct route less than 10km before the finish of the special. 

Making use of his vast rally racing experience, Quintanilla managed to salvage a seventh-place result for the day. With just one shorter stage remaining at this year’s Merzouga Rally, the reigning Cross-Country Rallies World Champion is now fifth in the provisional overall standings. Showing some great speed in the opening part of today’s timed special, Andrew Short brought his FR 450 Rally machine home in 11th position. 

Continuing to learn and collect racing experience, the American is looking forward to tomorrow’s fifth and final stage of the Merzouga Rally. Featuring a mass, motocross-styled start, the fifth and final stage of this year’s Merzouga Rally features a 48km timed special contested 100% in the massive dunes of the Moroccan desert. It will be the last step on the way to the finish of this demanding week-long event in Africa. Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-pablo_quintanillaPablo Quintanilla“It’s been a long two days of racing and I’m happy to reach the end of the Marathon Stage. In the first part yesterday I did quite well. I got off to a good pace from the start and managed to post the second fastest time for the day. I felt good on my bike and wanted to keep the same momentum on the second part of the Marathon Stage. Today I was quite consistent. I had a good feeling on the bike, but less than 10 kilometres before the finish the notes on the roadbook were not so clear and that lead all of us who were up front to make exactly the same mistake. After that I did my best to make up some time but had a collision with another rider who was going off the right tracks. It wasn’t the best of days for me but it is what it is and we move on. I’m still highly motivated to do well tomorrow so that I can get as high as possible in the overall.” Merzouga-Rally-2018-Stage-4-andrew_shortAndrew Short“This Marathon Stage has been another big learning experience for me. I did quite well in the first part yesterday. In the morning there were some cool sections in the sand and some dry rivers and I really enjoyed riding my bike there. Then as the day went on the terrain changed and we had to race through some really rocky and treacherous sections. Overall, it was very cool to have this Marathon Stage. These are the stages that we will remember. It’s nice to have that kind of camaraderie with the other riders and you also have to think and make sure you protect your bike throughout the day. Today I had a good feeling on the bike, but a few mistakes and a few small crashes didn’t let me battle for a great result. Right before the end of today’s stage I got lost together with many other riders. I’m really happy I got to do this race and I feel I learned a lot. It was a good experience and I am looking forward to reaching the finish of the Merzouga Rally tomorrow.” 

 Merzouga Rally 2018 – Stage 4 results

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 BOTTURI Alessandro   ITA Botturi Racing Yamaha 3:23:31
2 GONCALVES Paulo   POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +3’44
3 BRABEC Ricky   USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +8’32
4 PRICE Toby   AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +11’54
5 SANZ Laia   SPA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +18’16
6 BENAVIDES Kevin   ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +20’49
7 QUINTANILLA Pablo   CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +24’32
8 BOURSAUD Anthony   FRA Antho Moto Sport Yamaha +26’50
9 BARREDA Joan   SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +27’09
10 DUPLESSIS Martín   ARG Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +29’45
11 SHORT Andrew   USA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +31’39
12 MAIO Antonio   POR Yamaha Fino Motor Yamaha +35’24
13 CORNEJO José Ignacio   CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +36’26
14 CAIMI Stefano   ARG Honda Argentina – MEC Team Honda +40’12
15 PEDRERO Joan   SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +42’02
Merzouga Rally 2018 – Provisional Standings after Stage 4
Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 BARREDA Joan   SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 13:26’49
2 PRICE Toby   AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +5’02
3 BENAVIDES Kevin   ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +6’31
4 BRABEC Ricky   USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +7’16
5 QUINTANILLA Pablo   CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +11’15
6 CORNEJO José Ignacio   CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +37’26
7 BOTTURI Alessandro   ITA Botturi Racing Yamaha +44’27
8 GONCALVES Paulo   POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +45’39
9 PEDRERO Joan   SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +46’58
10 DUPLESSIS Martín   ARG Sherco TVS Rally Factory Sherco +59’01