Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price and Laia Sanz have both got the 2018 Merzouga Rally off to a positive start securing top six positions during the Prologue stage.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing pairing of Toby Price and Laia Sanz are back in action onboard their KTM 450 RALLY bikes, contesting the 2018 Merzouga Rally held in Morocco. Merzouga itself is a small town bordering the mighty Sahara Desert and provides the perfect rally location with the surrounding terrain featuring a mixture of deep sand dunes and hard-packed rocky tracks.
Although short at only five kilometres, Sunday’s Prologue gave riders a taste of what is to come from the remainder of the rally and more importantly determined the riders’ start positions for Monday’s stage one. Held in the dunes to the east of Merzouga the short sprint took the front-runners less than six-minutes to complete but still provided a worthy test for both competitors and their machinery. Navigation specifically will prove tricky for all of the competitors, especially on the longer stages of the event.
Following his strong performance at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in Abu Dhabi, Toby Price has come into the Merzouga Rally recharged and looking for a top result. Second fastest on the short Prologue by just three seconds, the 2016 Dakar Champion will enjoy a good start position for tomorrow’s stage one and aim to chase down the leaders.
Toby Price: “That was all good today. I started towards the back of the pack, kept to a good pace and everything went really well. My mechanic has done a fantastic job on the bike and I feel good. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Merzouga Rally has on offer for us this week.”
The Merzouga Rally marks Laia Sanz’ return to rally competition after the 2018 Dakar. The Spanish multiple world champion unfortunately suffered a crash on Friday while testing and was in doubt for the event. Following some rest and physio Laia was able to make the start of Sunday’s Prologue and put in an excellent performance to finish sixth.
Laia Sanz: “I am really happy to be able to start the race because yesterday it looked like I might not be able to compete. At the beginning of the free practice I was a little worried about my arm, but it warmed up and started to feel better. The Prologue went really well, I didn’t take any risks and tried to keep a nice consistent pace. I’m very happy with sixth place and it gives me a good start position for tomorrow’s Stage One.”
Monday’s Stage One of the 2018 Merzouga Rally sees riders tackle a tricky to navigate 206.71km special stage in the tracks and dunes to the west of Merzouga.
Provisional Results Prologue Stage – 2018 Merzouga Rally
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 5:25
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 5:28 +3 seconds
3. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 5:42 +17 secs
4. Juan Pedrero (ESP), Sherco, 5:45 +20 secs
5. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 5:46 +21 secs