Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has won stage three of the 2019 Rally du Maroc. Matthias Walkner finished just under two minutes behind his teammate bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in second, with Junior Class rider Luciano Benavides placing 11th.

STORY: Matthias Walkner schiebt sich auf Gesamtrang 2

Marking the second half of the rally’s marathon stage, day three of the Rally du Maroc was set to be the longest of the event. However, organizers cancelled the third part of the timed special for safety reasons, taking the day’s results from the end of the second special. With riders only receiving their road books 15 minutes prior to entering the stage – a first for the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – ultimate navigation skills would prove critical to success on the demanding desert stage.

Toby Price: “The stage went well for me today.”

Following his tough day two, where issues with the road book ended up costing him valuable minutes, Toby Price knew he had to attack stage three to stay competitive in the overall standings. As the ninth rider to take to the special, the reigning Dakar Champion immediately set about chasing down the riders ahead. Unfortunately, with the stage cut short, the Australian was unable to maximize his advantage, but was still able to win the stage and move himself up to the top of the provisional overall standings.

Toby Price: “The stage went well for me today. There were a couple of sections that were quite tricky and I didn’t quite catch them at the right point to make up time on the guys in front. Even so, we were able to close the gap a little and I felt good all day. The roles will be reversed again for tomorrow so the other guys will be chasing us down again but that’s just rallying. It’s a shame they cancelled the last part of the stage because I think we could have made up even more time but that’s the way it is sometimes. A disadvantage for you might be an advantage for someone else. But we completed the marathon stage safely, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Matthias Walker: “I think today was the first day that I really enjoyed the riding.”

Also losing time on the previous stage, Matthias Walkner put in a superb performance on day three to claim second for the stage and elevate himself to third in the rally standings. Happy with how he rode on the sandy, two-part timed special, Matthias managed his tyres perfectly, bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home just one minute and 55 seconds behind his teammate.

Matthias Walker: “I think today was the first day that I really enjoyed the riding. It was tough because the tyres had already ridden a lot of kilometres yesterday and toward the very end of the stage today, I could really feel that they were worn. I know I made some mistakes with my navigation and I thought it would have cost me a lot of time, so I was quite surprised to find out I had finished second. Hopefully I can continue like this and finish the year with a good result here in Morocco.”

Luciano Benavides: “The day was really tough today – there were many parts with very tricky navigation.”

Luciano Benavides was the fifth rider to enter the stage early on Monday morning. Still learning and gaining knowledge in terms of both his pace and navigation, the young Argentinian was able to immediately make up time on the riders in front. Although a number of small mistakes knocked his rhythm a little in the latter half of the special, Luciano safely made the finish in a respectable 11th place – an excellent result considering the challenging navigation in the desert.

Luciano Benavides: “The day was really tough today – there were many parts with very tricky navigation. At the beginning I caught the rider in front and had a small crash while riding in his dust. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad and I didn’t hurt myself, but I had to change my clutch lever. On the second half of the stage I made a couple of mistakes with my navigation, which cost me some minutes but on the whole I’m happy to finish the marathon stage and looking forward to the last two days.”

KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz and Mario Patrao both enjoyed strong results despite the challenging route, completing the tough marathon stage in 20th and 22nd places respectively. Continuing to test new settings and build confidence on their KTM 450 RALLY machines ahead of the Dakar Rally in January, the pair are looking forward to the remaining two days of racing.

Stage four of the 2019 Rally du Maroc, the penultimate of the event, once again leads riders on a looped route close to the town of Erfoud. Totalling 508.30 kilometres, the stage includes a gruelling 408.53-kilometre timed special.

Provisional Standings – Rally du Maroc 2019 after 3 of 5 stages
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 11:57:39
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 12:01:45 +4:06
3. Franco Caimi (ARG), Yamaha, 12:04:19 +6:40
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 12:04:20 +6:41
5. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 12:05:31 +7:52

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LINK: Rallye du Maroc

photos (c) Marcin Kin