Sunderland and Walkner withdraw from the Merzouga Rally


The Merzouga Rally looses two of its protagonists: Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner. The British KTM factory rider was opening the track when he crashed at km 111.8 in a river bed, breaking his right femur and left collar bone. Meo and Walkner were the first to rescue their team mate, who was transported by helicopter to the private hospital in Errachidia for further checks. Meo and Walkner continued together till the end of the special stage when the Austrian rider, who was sick since yesterday, decided to return to the paddock.

Marathon stage, the riders had 200 km liaison before reaching the bivouac in the desert, where no assistance team is allowed. Today’s win goes to Meo in front of Walkner, Van Beveren, Svitko, Farres and Botturi. Meo leads also the overall standing.

Nathan Rafferty was the fastest rider of the Expert class, followed by Bruno Martins and Christophe Braun. In the quad, another very good performance for the duo Marcos Echaniz and Fernandez Covadonga. In the SSV category, Medero-Ventaja were the fastest crew in front of Henrichy –Bersey, winner of the 2014 MR,and Ibarz- Torne (Enjoy Quads).

The stage

The clock alarm rang very early today for the riders that from 06.15 collected their road book one hour before their start. The MR is re-known for focusing on navigation and this was an extra challenge for all the competitors.


First part of the Marathon, this third race day featured a relatively short but demanding stage with the crossing of the Ergs Chebbi and Snaguy and a liaison of 200 km on off-piste terrains. At the arrival at the bivouac, the machines were parked in the parc fermé, without the support of the assistance team.

Antoine Meo (KTM): “It was a varied and spectacular stage with dunes, river crossings, fast paths and a rocky extreme section. Navigation was really demanding especially at the beginning in the horse-piste, i was able to recover me time in the dunes after the CP1. I caught Matthias and Sam, then Matthias made a mistake. We were together when Sam crashed. We remained with Sam till the arrival of the helicopter. We lost the concentration and we are sorry for his withdraw, but in the end we succeeded to finish the stage without making many mistakes”.

Matthias Walkner (KTM): “Yesterday I was sick and today I took the start that I was not feeling 100%. The situation got worst after the finish of the special stage. I was not focused and I prefer not to take additional risks, so I head to the paddock instead of the bivoauc. It’s a pity, I really enjoyed the rally”.

Stefan Svitko (KTM): "It was a demanding stage but I loved the super landscape. Navigation was sometimes tricky especialy in the first part of the stage but i really enjoyed the day"

Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha Racing): “I really enjoyed the stage and also the fact that the roabook were given in the morning. I’m improving in the navigation, gaining more confidence day after day”. Nathan Rafferty: “The Expert category is less extreme than the Pro as we cover around the 75% of the entire route. I’m really enjoying the rally and I don’t find it so far too demanding”.

Markus Berthold (Kini Rally): “I broke one finger yesterday but I took the start and I’m happy that I finished also todays’ stage. Too hard? No, I could manage well and I look forward for the night in the bivoauc in the desert”. It was a good stage for the Spanish quads Fernandez Covadonga (quad) and Marco Echaniz

Henrichy- Bersey (AT4R): “It was a superb race. The scenary was just incredible. We succeeded to gain some times on our competitors and we keep on pushing to get the best possible results”.