HRC rider Kevin Benavides claims the win of the SS3 in a hectic day

Atlas  Bivouac Marathon  464 km  Liaison 50 km  SS 223 km Liaison 191 km 

A “Dakar style” stage with technical navigation and varied terrains marked the first day of the marathon stage. After a liaison of 50 km, the competitors took the start of the 223 km long selective stage that alternated fast tracks to sandy off road passages before starting the climb to the Atlas Mountains, where they will spend the night in the marathon bivouac at almost 2.000 meters above the sea level.

Gerard Farres started first but due to the tough navigation, he was soon caught by Benavides, Svitko, Van Beveren and Helder Rodrigues.  They  all  rode  together  till  the  end.  After  the  arrival  of  the  first  11  riders,  the  race  was  interrupted  at  the  CP3 and some minutes later at the CP2 due to safety reasons. A very strong sandy storm and the fact that the two medical helicopters were busy in the rescue service didn’t guarantee the safety of the race, the  first priority of the organisation. The remaining  riders are still on their way to the bivouac in liaison. 

Kevin Benavides (HRC) claimed the victory of the SS3 in front of Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha), second at +3’29, Stefan Svitko (KTM), third at + 6’42, Van Beveren (Yamaha) 4th at +9’ 59 and Gerard Farres  (KTM) 5th at + 12’39. José Cornejo did another impressive  performance  (6th),  while  Ricky  Brabec  (7th)  struggled more  than  the  previous  days  due  to  the  difficult  navigation. 

The fastest rider of the Dakar challenge today was the South African David Thomas, 8th.

b_600_0_16777215_00_images_12-NIEUWS_Merzouga_2016_Stage3_afriquiamerzougarally_2016_stage3_002.jpg

Riders quotes

Kevin Benavides: 
“It was a stage characterized by difficult navigation and we mainly rode all together. After the CP2 I took the lead  and  opened  the  track.  It  was  difficult  but  it  was  a  very  good  training.  I  particularly  enjoyed  the  stunning  landscapes.  The variety  of  the  terrains  with  many  sandy  off  road  passages  and  rocky  paths  required  a  very  technical  riding  and  a  precise navigation.”.

Helder Rodrigues: 
“It was important to gain as many minutes as possible today because we are in the middle of the race. I had planned a race strategy that I couldn’t follow completely, but all in all I’m satisfied with today’s result”.

Adrien Van Beveren: 
“It was a tough stage! We started with the sand and we finished with the rocks at 2000 meters above the sea level. I live at the sea, so I enjoy the sand more than the rocks, but the climb on the Atlas Mountains was impressive. Today we met all kind of terrains so we had to adapt to the changes. This was very good because adaptation is the winning key in a rally”. 

Gerard Farres: 
“It was a Dakar stage! I liked the spirit to give the priority to the off piste and the difficult navigation. We had to think and double check many times if we were on the right direction, we are racing in group, alternating each other in front  and - as  on  the  Dakar - the  race  strategy  is  crucial.  It  reminded  me  of  the  old  times  when  Jordi  Arcarons  was  racing  the  Dakar  in Africa  with  the  difference  that  the  speed  is  higher.    There  are  many  riders  and  important  manufacturers  so  the  competition  is high”.

Ricky Brabec: 
“Today there was a lot of navigation and I got lost many times and I couldn’t catch the guys at the front. I rode by myself almost the whole stage and it was difficult as it was mainly off piste and it was difficult to see the traces”.