After a mixed day in the desert, KTM factory rider Cyril Despres managed to hang on to the overall lead in the Morocco Rally on Friday’s penultimate stage but his overall advantage was trimmed down to 5 minutes 33 seconds.
Despres, who was second out on the track on a day and eventually finished the stage in ninth position, 12 minutes behind stage winner Joan Barreda of Spain. Despres’ teammate Joan Pedrero of Spain was the fastest KTM rider of the stage, finishing fourth and trailing the lead by seven and a half minutes.
Speaking after the stage Cyril said it had been ‘not a bad day but also not perfect’. “The first kilometers were not on the road book and I wasn’t sure I had the right bearing so I decided to turn back to check that I was right,” he commented. “After that it was not easy because there were many tracks from the other riders and other vehicles. I had two options, to follow the tracks or to make my own and I decided to make my own and when you do it like this, it can cost time. The last part was very fast and I was trying to push as much as I could. Tomorrow is a shorter stage and I will of course do everything I can to take the victory.”
With the early rally leader Helder Rodrigues well down the leader board after technical problems on Thursday and following the retirement of Cyril’s KTM teammate Marc Coma with a dislocated shoulder earlier in the week the race has now crystallized down to a two-way battle. Despres and Barreda are vying for victory and third placed Chaleco Lopez of Chile on the KTM is in the running for eventual third place. Lopez will have to watch out for attacks from Frans Verhoeven of Netherlands and Britain’s Sam Sunderland who are, time wise, close by. Only eight minutes separate places 3-5.
Riders will also have little opportunity to recover from mistakes in the final Stage Six, which is only 171 km of timed stretch and 206 km overall. Organizers say it is short but technically tricky and will take the field back into the small dunes. This means that given the battle between Despres and Barreda, there is still everything to play for.
Results Stage Five (246 km timed, total of 427km)
1, Joan Barreda, Spain, Husqvarna two hours 42.55
2, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Honda, at 1.20
3, Sam Sunderland, Britain, Honda at 4.23
4, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM at 7.34
5, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, Husqvarna at 7.46
6, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, KTM at 8.24
8, Kuba Przgonski, Poland, at 12.25
9, Cyril Despres, France, KTM at 12.56
12, Riaan Van-Niekerk, South Africa KTM, 22.17
17, Alessandro Botturi, Italy, KTM, 25.18
18, Darryl Curtis, South Africa, KTM, 33.04
Standings after Stage 5 (penultimate stage)
1, Despres 16 hours 07.19
2, Barreda at 5.33
3, Lopez at 31.58
4, Verhoeven at 36.37
5, Sunderland at 39.14
9, Przgonski at 49.34
10, Pedrero at 49.52
12, Botturi, 1.24.01
14, Van-Niekerk, 2.02.22
15, Curtis, 2.21.50