The OiLybia Rally of Morocco drew to a close today in Marrakech with Joan Barreda taking the honours in the sixth and final stage. The Spaniard managed a fourth overall in spite of his final position being marred by a weighty penalty handed down earlier in the week. Fellow Team HRC rider Helder Rodrigues occupied the third step of the final podium, while Laia Sanz finished top female with tenth place on the final table.
Helder Rodrigues, as yesterday’s winner, landed the tricky job of leading out in today’s 113 km special. On the menu was fast, mainly flat track - at times wide, at others potholed - with a fair serving of dust. The Portuguese rider battled successfully to fend off his adversaries in the chase for the final podium place.
The stage winner was Joan Barreda who was fastest in five of the six stages in Morocco, setting a blistering pace which the others were unable to maintain. Nevertheless, Barreda had been hit with several penalties for excess speed that stopped him finishing higher on the overall final leader-board, narrowly missing a podium place by one minute. He closes the World Championship in 4th place.
Laia Sanz once again shone. Spain’s champion clinched not only victory in the female category, but posted a notable tenth place in the stage.
Jeremías Israel was unable to start today, after having suffered a mechanical setback shortly after setting off from Zagora yesterday, which saw the rider obliged to return directly to the bivouac.
Paulo Goncalves was forced to abandon the race yesterday after a crash left him nursing a broken rib. The Portuguese rider headed back home to begin his convalescence ahead of the next big challenge: Dakar 2015. He finish the season as runner-up in the 2014 FIM World Championship Cross-Country Rallies.
Today was a day that I opened the track so it was difficult to get good times. I wanted to get through it without losing much time to get onto the podium. In the end I got a result. I think that the team is happy. It’s the first race with this bike. The machine is really good, and hasn’t given us any problems. I felt bad for Paulo’s crash yesterday, which was very worrying. He could have got a good result, but that’s the way the races go. I happy that it wasn’t more serious.
We’ve won again. I think that we are on the right track and that’s what you have to look at. We’ll try to stay relaxed in the next few races, confident in the knowledge that we’ve done the job well. I had a much more confident race with the navigation, because I hadn’t taken part in Brazil, so I wasn’t in the running for the world championship. If I had to take any risks with the navigation or the speed, it was here. We have tried, and now we know that we have a few more good points than the rest. It’s great. We’ll try and follow this more consistent line, and now let’s see if the year goes any better. Let’s see if we can win the Dakar, which has been our aim over these last few years.
it’s been a great rally. I didn’t push it so much, rather I tried to be consistent and not have any problems. The result was a good one, but the priority was to get some kilometres under my belt, get more training and I think that we accomplished this. I had a good day in the rocks of the fifth stage, but on the whole, I think that I did well over all kinds of ground. It was only on the fast tracks that I wasn’t so comfortable, and I made a few navigational errors, without consequences. This has been a good training session for the Dakar. I wasn’t thinking about getting a result, but I began thinking that I could improve on it. But that wasn’t what counted. What is important is the kilometres and the road-books that we’ve done, and that has helped a lot.
After yesterday’s fall, it’s now time to recover and get in shape for the next challenge which is the Dakar 2015. For the time being, I have to think that I was runner-up in the championship and I’m happy with that. We have battled hard throughout the 2014 championship. I really pushed it yesterday to try and win the race, but I fell and picked up a few injuries. But the important thing is the work that we have done over the course of the season. Team HRC has done a formidable job, with a better bike. We have the best team and the top riders, and all we need to win is a little more luck. I hope we find it in a couple of months in the Dakar.
I’m happy to have had this experience. The Rally of Morocco is the first experience that I’ve had since last season’s Dakar where I got injured and had to spend a year recovering. It’s been the first contact that I’ve had with Team HRC trying out the bike on real terrain. In a way I got a feel for it – I saw the pace of the top riders and got to try out stuff with the team. It was a difficult challenge, with a few negative points, such as the penalty on the first day, which didn’t reflect the effort that I put in. I was with Paulo when he fell yesterday. I helped him a bit. After, I had a small electrical problem that stopped me going any further. I’m fine and haven’t had any problems. In the next few days I’ll return to Chile and will start to prepa re for the next Dakar.
With the finish of the OiLybia Rally of Morocco, we have also finished a very intensive programme of testing for the Dakar. We were able to be the fastest in most of the stages, and showed the potential of the technical improvements, and the preparation of the riders. The end result was not what we wished for - we had been aiming for the victory here, but this time it was not possible. What is important is that Paulo has no serious injury, and can prepare well for Dakar. The riders are all in good spirits. Laia had an excellent race to finish tenth. We are happy for Helder to have taken the last place on the podium. As a preparation race, it’s a very satisfying place here. We wish our compliments to KTM and Marc Coma for a great world championship title, and for a very nice and sporting season, fighting closely in ev ery race throughout the whole year. We’ll see you again in Dakar and we’ll fight again.