Stage three of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally marked the first of the two days of the Marathon stages. Being the highlight of the rally, the performance in these stages typically separates the leaders from the rest.
For Hero MotoSports Team Rally, both the riders did well to finish the stage in a strong position. Oriol Mena, shrugging off a minor set back of stage 2, made good time today to climb up several places to finish the stage 3 in 14th position.
CS Santosh also kept a steady momentum amidst zones of very soft dunes and tricky navigation to finish the stage 3 in 27th position. Overall, Oriol stand at 16th place and C S Santosh at 20th place at the end of 3 stages.
Competitors will have to go through the night without the aid of their assistance crew and get ready for the part two of the Marathon stage tomorrow.
The Marathon stage of today was made of a long liaison of 63 kms followed by the 240 km stage where the riders had to negotiate the dunes of the Rissani erg, those of the Chebbi erg, sand in the Fezou region, and the Ouzina erg before arriving at the campsite in the middle of the dunes for an evening in the heart of the desert.
Tomorrow’s Stage 4 will see the riders negotiate another 233 km of special stage sandwiched between 36 km and 103 km of liaison sections, finally reuniting with their assistance crew at the Tombouctou hotel with only the last stage remaining to decide the rally champion.
Oriol Mena, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « I started well today and attacked from the start to catch the rider in front of me soon after the start. It was a day of mostly solo riding as I had a good clearance both in front and behind me. Made no navigation mistakes and rode carefully in the rocky section to arrive safely at the Marathon Bivouac. Now we rest and then prepare for tomorrow. »
C S Santosh, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « Today I decided to keep it nice and safe with an aim to get the bike to the Marathon bivouac. My navigation was good and made no major mistakes, so a steady stage for me. The dune section was quite smooth and the rest of the part had lot of rocks and stones so I had to be careful there. The bike is riding perfectly and I am looking forward to the second part tomorrow. »
Provisional Results for the Stage 3
1. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda Racing, 03h 23m 42s
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna Racing, +08m 59s
3. Kevin Benavides, Honda Racing, +09m 15s…
14. Oriol Mena, Hero MotoSports, +20m 29s…
27. C S Santosh, Hero MotoSports, +52m 40s…
Overall Provisional Results at the end of Stage 3
1. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda Racing, 09h 36m 09s
2. Kevin Benavides, Honda Racing, +12m 51s
3. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna Racing, +13m 52s…
16. Oriol Mena, Hero MotoSports, +01h 52m 16s…
20. C S Santosh, Hero MotoSports, +02h 48m 02s…