KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain allowed himself a few thoughts about the title fight for the 2014 FIM World Cross Country Rally championship on Tuesday after winning Stage 4 of the Morocco Rally and assuming a slender lead in the overall standings.
Speaking after the stage from Zagora to Cheggaga, which included a timed special of 226 km, Coma, a Red Bull athlete described it as ‘short but tricky’. Coma finished just in front of factory teammates Sam Sunderland (UK) in second place and Australian Toby Price, riding in his first international FIM rally, took third in the stage. The result put Coma in the overall lead with a narrow one minute 35 second advantage over his rival for the title, Paolo Goncalves of Portugal. There are still two days of hard desert riding to absolve before the 2014 World Champion is crowned.
Coma, who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, said he felt increasingly comfortable in the desert conditions and on the KTM 450 Rally bike. “This was a short stage that was not exactly difficult or dangerous, but definitely tricky. For this you need a certain feeling and at the end of the day I felt I could start to think a bit about the title fight and to push a little.” The day’s special also included the battle with the dunes of Erg Cheggaga, always a challenge for the riders of this rally.
Coma had already also overcome the psychological step on Monday of having passed through a similar area where he had crashed and was injured two years ago, a race incident that led to him being unable to compete in the 2013 Dakar Rally. Monday was the longest day and one where he had to open the track for more than 300 km of the long timed special.
It was also an excellent day out on Tuesday for factory teammate Sunderland who with his second place in the stage has now moved up to third overall behind Goncalves. He trails Coma’s lead-time by just under twelve minutes.
Other KTM factory riders Chaleco Lopez of Chile, Portugal’s Ruben Faria, and Jordi Viladoms of Spain are currently at 5-6-7 in the overall standings. Jakub Przygonski of Poland is ninth overall on his KTM and the two new KTM aspirants, Price and Austrian Matthias Walkner, are currently a very creditable twelfth and fourteenth place. Walkner, whose task in the rally is to concentrate on learning, finished Stage Four just 12 minutes 20 off the winning pace.
Price, a winner of the Australian Desert classics but new to this type of racing did incur a 20-minute penalty on Monday for missing a way point. He said his rear tail-light had snapped off and shorted out his map-reader. “It’s all learning,’ he said. “I should have stopped and fixed it but I didn’t know the problem and I didn’t want to get lost. Day three was definitely scary with no map.”
Riders go into the penultimate day with another long day in the saddle with the route from Zagora to Marrakesh to include 302 km of timed special. The rally concludes on Thursday.
Morocco Rally Stage 4
Zagora – Cheggaga
Special stage of 226 km
1, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM 2 hours 46.32
2, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM at 0.05
3, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 1.10
4, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda, at 2.16
5, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda, at 3.47
6, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez, CHI, KTM at 3.52
7, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 4.54
9, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, 7.23
10, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM 8.10
11, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM 12.20
13, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM 14.46
Overall standings after Stage 4
1, Coma at 11 hours 41.52
2, Goncalves at 1.35
3, Sunderland at 11.53
4, Rodrigues at 16.34
5, Lopez at 16.46
6, Faria at 20.15
7, Viladoms at 21.45
9, Przygonski at 52.35
12, Price at 1 hour 05.19 (includes 20-minute penalty)
14, Walkner at 1:47.17