Joan Barreda once again has taken control of the OiLibiya Rally of Morocco. The Spanish rider on the CRF450 RALLY marked the fastest time in a hazardous fifth stage, bringing Team HRC’s tally to four out of five stage wins.
The rally caravan journeyed on today with the rally’s longest stage, setting off from Zagora before winding its way into the mountainous Draa area, and finishing up some 512 kilometres later in Ourzazate, which featured 302 km of timed special. The route was in complete contrast to yesterday’s – the dunes being replaced by rock-filled narrow and treacherous track.
Joan Barreda was, for the fourth time, the fastest of the race, setting a storming pace that allowed him to close down on the front-runners. In doing so, Barreda moves up into fourth place in the overall standings with just tomorrow’s stage in Marrakech still left to run.
Hélder Rodrigues, likewise, performed well in spite of the numerous dangers. The Portuguese Honda took place on the day, and looks poised to hold on to his podium place as the title chase looks forward to tomorrow’s grand finale with 113 kilometres of special.
Sublime fifth stage also for Laia Sanz. The Spanish rider had her best day out so far in the world championship, finishing in eleventh place, climbing two places on the overall leader-board.
Paulo Gonçalves was unable to finish the special. He suffered a fall in the early in the special before arriving at the first waypoint, which resulted in an injured shoulder and ribs. ‘Speedy’ had been battling to retain his FIM World Cross-Country Rally title which he had clinched in the same race last year. After the fall, he managed to make it to the first Control Point and was transported to hospital in Ourzazate.
Jeremías Israel continues to perform well in the later half of the rally, but had an incident today that saw him drop time. The Chilean rider chose to head straight back to the bivouac in Marrakech without finishing the stage.
JOAN BARREDA: 1st
It was a really dangerous day today. I set off really pushing hard, but I saw straight away that there was so much to lose, with loads of dangers, and knew that I had to stay calm, especially in the river crossings with so many rocks. I changed the chip and focused on getting through without making any mistakes or crashing. In the end I caught up with the other riders that I had up ahead, making it a good all round result.
HELDER RODRIGUES: 3rd
It could have been a great day for me, but it didn’t turn out that way, because I was worried about Paulo, who I was very sad to see abandon the race. I found him and asked if he needed any help, but he told me to keep going. I tried as hard as I could right until the end, and I made it to the goal. We will be trying our hardest to get a result tomorrow. It’s great to hear that Paulo hasn’t got anything too serious.
LAIA SANZ. 11th
Everything is going great until now. It’s a pity about the fall on the second day. I feel fine and I’m improving a lot with a stable and steady pace. That’s what it’s all about: keep getting better. The technique is very important, the speed of the bike, and the navigation. It’s been a perfect debut. Today was the most dangerous stage yet – full of dangers and rocks. I took it calmly and safely.
MARTINO BIANCHI – TEAM MANAGER
It was a very difficult and dangerous fifth stage here in Morocco. It is a shame that we have lost Paulo Goncalves in a crash. We are happy that he didn’t injure himself badly. He was transported to Ourzazate hospital in a helicopter. They looked him over and it seems that he has got broken ribs and some damage to his shoulder, but not that bad. Anyway, we won another stage today, our fourth win in five days of racing. Barreda won again and showed that he is very fast, and he also proved himself to be very consistent in this type of hard race. Also, Helder was very good today in third position. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s stage. We offer our best wishes to the whole team and hope they all finish safely.