Runner-up spot today, in the fourth and penultimate stage of the Rallye du Maroc, went to Monster Energy Honda Team’s Ricky Brabec. The American rider leaps the overall leader board from eighth to third position, entering the tussle for the final overall podium.
After issuing the new roadbooks to the riders this morning, 25 minutes before race-start, the fourth stage got underway in the Ramlia and Sidi Ali area to the southwest of Erfoud, on the border with Algeria. Due to be the longest special stage of the rally, at 408.53 kilometres and, with just a day to go, the one most likely to see an attack staged, in the end was reduced to 311 kilometres. The day served up a mix of fast track, dunes, sections of camel grass and other stony stretches. Navigation, once again, proved to be a key factor in arriving at the finish-line.
Most of the kilometres disputed proved to be to the liking to Ricky Brabec, who, setting a lightning pace, finished just a minute shy of taking the victory on this fourth stage. Chilean rider José Ignacio Cornejo, becoming increasingly comfortable on this type of terrain, today posted a respectable result in seventh place.
Joan Barreda too, was setting a cracking pace, until a navigational error a few kilometres from the finish saw him drop the advantage that he had previously accumulated. At the end, the Spaniard had to settle for ninth place, one place ahead of Monster Energy Honda team-mate, Kevin Benavides. The day’s mission for the Argentine involved overcoming the pain caused by yesterday’s fall, to make it back to end of the stage in one piece.
Good work also from South African rider Aaron Mare, assisted by Monster Energy Honda Team, who posted sixth on the day.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, sees the conclusion of the Rallye du Maroc in Fez, where the entire entourage will amass to witness the prize-giving for the 2019 edition. En route, competitors will battle out 168.47 kilometres against the clock.
Ricky Brabec – STAGE: 2nd OVERALL: 3rd
« The day started off really well. More or less my style of riding – really fast. A couple of stones here and there and some trial areas. I felt really well today. Unfortunately there were a couple of navigational errors from the riders up front. I copped the group. I just rode in the dust for the rest of the day. Losing a bit of time, but it’s all good. I’m happy with the way I rode. I finished second today, so tomorrow I’m starting second. I think the navigation might be easy. Hopefully not lose too much time tomorrow. I’m on the podium right now. It would be nice to stay on the final podium. It’s rally and anything can happen. We are going to keep the fight alive. The bike’s working really well. We are going back to the old specs suspension for me. I prefer this and tomorrow the traction for me will be really nice. »
Kevin Benavides – STAGE: 10th OVERALL: 10th
« Today was a complicated day for me. A very hard stage. Yesterday I hit my leg hard and today my muscle was very swollen; it didn’t allow me to get on or off the bike and resist the impact of all the bumps. I tried to take it easy to just get there, without anything else. The season is over and I think we have, by now, paid all the dues to be able to start well next year. »
José Ignacio Cornejo – STAGE: 7th OVERALL: 11th
« We finished the fourth stage, which despite having been cut it for safety reasons, was equally tough. Complicated navigation areas where you had to have a cool head. I made no navigation errors, I notched up good times and we arrived in a good position, which allows me to continue making up positions in the general standings. There is one more day but we must remain focused until the very end. »
Joan Barreda – STAGE: 9th OVERALL: 4th
« It was a stage where you had to push hard. The pace was higher than on other days. Today they gave us more information in the roadbook and we had to race had. We had to make up time. Seven kilometres from the line in a point in the roadbook that had to be correctly interpreted, I got it wrong and dropped time while going into a mountainous area. We still have options and we will try to fight to finish the rally well tomorrow. »
Provisional Results Stage 4
1. Goncalves Paulo (POR) – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, 03:37’11
2. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +0’58
3. Short Andrew (USA) – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, +1’23…
6. Mare Aaron (RSA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +6’22
7. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +7’11…
9. Barreda Joan (SPA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +7’45
10. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +8’44…
Provisional Standings after Stage 4
1. Short Andrew (USA) – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, 15:45’18
2. Quintanilla Pablo (CHI) – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, +0’35
3. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +2’13
4. Barreda Joan (SPA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +5’11
5. Price Toby (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +8’12
6. Benavides Luciano (ARG) – KTM Factory Racing Team, +9’23
7. Walkner Matthias (AUT) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +9’28
8. Evan Branch Ross (BWA) – Team Ross, +11’54
9. Caimi Franco (ARG) – Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team, +18’03
10. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +20’15
11. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +24’16
12. Nosiglia Daniel (BOL) – Team Nosiglia, +39’07…
19. Mare Aaron (RSA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +1:19’10…