With just one more day, the 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco is on its final stretch. It will be held around the city of Erfoud and will ultimately determine the overall winner.
With the sudden pour of heavier than average rainfall, it caused in a change of terrain. Some of these changes were very drastic just like rivers that had been proven to be impassable. These rivers were a part of the course that the contestants were supposed to pass through. The first ones to experience the hassle of the route were Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, and KTM’s Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland. It was on the stage two. Due to the muddy river water, it results to the riders being completely blind. The depth was also near impossible to cross.
Out of the three of them, Sunderland was the one who was forced to retire as his fuel was contaminated with muddy water.
“I’m really disappointed today,” said Sunderland after Stage two. “Up to around 45km everything was great, the bike felt good and I was making good time. We got to the river and I followed the road book to the crossing, but although I took it as carefully as I could the bike just disappeared from beneath me. I ended up drowning the engine and getting water in the fuel.”
Quintanilla suffered the same fate as Sunderland but it seems that he had a lucky item with him as he was able to pass through to the next checkpoint where the track was eventually neutralized.
Good thing for those riders behind the three leaders, they were able to judge the water more accurately by observing the leaders who were the first to go through the first river. However, a river after CP1 was discovered to be completely impossible to cross for the bikes and the stage was stopped.
Riders travelled the dessert of Erg Lihoudi for days three and four which made up the marathon stages. They camped for the night However, a river after CP1 was found to be completely impossible to cross for the bikes and the stage was stopped. And again, because of the depth of the rivers, which are abnormally deep due to the heavy rain, the course was slightly altered to ensure that the entirety of the track was passable.
With only one day left of the rally, it was championship leader Pablo Quintanilla that had the lead on the overall standings. He just needs to have a good result in the final day for him to be hailed as the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Champion.
A controversy arise when initially, Quintanilla had a 20 additional minutes penalty because of him missing a checkpoint. It was in the first river and losing time even as fixing his bike. A protest was raised by the team saying that his time lost due to mistakes in the road book for that day. It eventually led the FIM to delete the penalty.
As for Honda, their riders and the team were quite disappointed as they were eager to have Kevin Benavides as the champion before the FIM recede the penalty.
“The stage was really fun but it’s hard to go racing when you know that KTM get their own way,” said Honda’s Ricky Brabec after stage four. “They have a really good spokesperson for FIM and towards the rally organisation. To keep racing after they get their own way every single day is tough for us. We keep fighting and we keep doing well and we can win. But when Honda wins KTM have something to say.
“It’s not good. It hasn’t been a good rally for us. They do something wrong they capitalize on it and get their time back. They miss a waypoint – they get their time back. They get stuck in the water – they get their time back. We go one kph over the speed limit – they give us a one-minute penalty. It’s a little BS for us.”
The fifth and final stage of the 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco will be held in the dunes surrounding Erfoud.