Husqvarna’s Paulo Goncalves came in as the fastest rider in Stage 3 of the Rally of Morocco, just three seconds ahead of Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues.
Stage 3 of the Rally of Morocco was one of the most dramatic yet, with Husqvarna rider Paulo Goncalves taking the marque’s first stage victory of the contest just three seconds ahead of Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues. KTM’s Chaleco Lopez followed an additional two-plus minutes back in third.
Some of the biggest news of the day came when Dakar Rally specialist Marc Coma crashed and was forced to pull out of the competition entirely. Coma went down early in the stage and dislocated his shoulder. He was airlifted by helicopter to the hospital in Errachidia and will soon return to Spain to tend to his injury. The KTM rider was second overall heading into Stage 3 and was running well at the start of the day. His fall came in an off-road section when he hit a mound of sand with his rear wheel and flew over the handlebars. Rodrigues was riding right behind and stopped to assist Coma until the helicopter arrived. Coma’s teammate, Joan Pedrero arrived on the scene soon after and commented later on the incident.
“Today was a difficult day,” said Pedrero. “Around 100 kilometers in I found out that Marc [Coma] had crashed, and that affected me. When I came in, Marc was with Helder [Rodrigues], who had stopped to help him, and at that time the helicopter landed. I stayed with him for a couple of minutes before he told me to leave, because help had already arrived.”
Dakar Rally specialist Marc Coma crashed out of compeition in Stage 3. He was airlifted out with a dislocated shoulder.
X-rays showed that there were no fractures in his shoulder, but testing will resume once Coma returns to Barcelona.
Goncalves moved up to fourth overall thanks to his first-place finish in Stage 3. Navigation challenges during the ride from Erfoud to Zagora required significant focus from Goncalves, who lost his way during Stage 2 after a fueling stop, costing him valuable time.
“Today was the fastest stage of the rally so far with such a lot of navigation to do,” said Goncalves. “Today I managed not to make any mistakes and I kept up the concentration until the end. This victory was just what was needed for me and for the team who are doing a great job with the bike. The developments are going really well and I’m very confident.”
Goncalves’ teammate Joan Barreda followed Lopez in fourth, coming in over five minutes off the lead pace. Barreda was another rider to come upon Coma after his accident, and afterward rode alongside Rodrigues for much of the rest of the stage. Barreda moved to third overall and trails Rodrigues by just over 16 minutes. Cyril Despres of KTM, winner of Stage 2 and second in overall standings after Stage 3, struggled to keep pace and fell outside the top-10, finishing 11th. The French rider was shaken by losing sight of Coma and made a few navigation errors after the incident, causing him to drop over 11 minutes off Goncalves’ lead pace.
“A really tough stage today,” said Barreda. “Before refueling Coma had a horrendous accident. We stopped to help him. Once we got going again I rode alongside Rodrigues to the finish line. Again there was a lot of navigating to be done today, but I’m happy with the result and with the way that the preparations are going for the Dakar.”
Rodrigues now has an 11 minute advantage over KTM’s Cyril Despres through the three stages. Goncalves has moved up to fourth overall and Lopez now sits fifth. Riders will continue to be tested as Stage 4 features 155 miles of timed competition through heavy sand in a route new to the Rally.
2012 Rally of Morocco Stage 3 Results:
1. Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) 2:52.24
2. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) +0.03
3. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) +2.50
4. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) +5.28
5. David Casteu (Yamaha) +5.49
2012 Rally of Morocco Overall Standings:
1. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) 9:29.42
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) +11.01
3. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) +16.21
4. Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) +17.35
5. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) +26.35