Joan Barreda was the fastest rider in Stage 5 and he cut over 12 minutes off of current overall leader Cyril Despres’ lead.
Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda took the victory in Stage 5 of the Rally of Morocco. Barreda bested Team HRC rider Helder Rodrigues by just over a minute. Rodrigues’ teammate Sam Sunderland rounded out the top-three.
Barreda started the day in 10th, but his focused performance in Stage 5 moved him to five and-a-half minutes behind current overall leader Cyril Despres of KTM, cutting the French rider’s previous advantage by over 12 minutes.
“I’m very pleased with the win. Just what was needed! Today I started from tenth place and I managed to make up a lot of ground on Despres in spite of there still being such a lot of navigation and dust. I kept my concentration and the bike always responded to me. This really is an important race for my team ahead of the Dakar and we’re really satisfied with the way things have been going.”
Despres wasn’t overjoyed with his performance, finishing the day in ninth, but wasn’t completely upset either. The French rider struggled early on with navigation and tried to push hard at the end to make up time.
Cyril Despres remains the overall leader through Stage 5 of the Rally of Morocco with just one stage remaining.
“The first kilometers were not on the road book and I wasn’t sure I had the right bearing so I decided to turn back to check that I was right,” said Despres. “After that it was not easy because there were many tracks from the other riders and other vehicles. I had two options, to follow the tracks or to make my own and I decided to make my own and when you do it like this, it can cost time. The last part was very fast and I was trying to push as much as I could. Tomorrow is a shorter stage and I will of course do everything I can to take the victory.”
Rodrigues took second in the stage but has fallen well outside competition for the overall lead due to the fact that he notched a DNF in Stage 4 when his machinery developed a fuel problem. He was still a bit shaken from the incident in Stage 4, but was able to regain his concentration and find race pace once again.
“I started in the back and I was determined to win the stage, but at the beginning I struggled to maintain the concentration, after having spent 5 hours yesterday in the desert with the air temperature hitting 58°C,” said Rodrigues. “Then I went into my race pace again, finishing the stage second, 01’.20 behind Barreda.”
Sunderland also incurred a penalty in Stage 4 for missing a way point, so he rode with added caution through Stage 5 in order to avoid any more mistakes.
“After yesterday’s 30 minute penalty for missing a way point, today I stopped to make sure I was right, but it’s better to lose 3 minutes than 30,” said Sunderland. “All in all, it was a positive stage. The bike felt a bit heavy in the dunes because we still had a full fuel tank.”
KTM’s Joan Pedrero came across the finish-line of Stage 5 in fourth place, but he was later penalized 30 minutes for taking a track that ran parallel to the one set out by organizers, dropping him to 11th. Barreda’s teammate Paulo Goncalves was awarded fourth for the stage after Pedrero’s penalty. Chaleco Lopez finished the day in fifth.
Marc Coma, who crashed out of competition in Stage 3, was released from the hospital in Barcelona after CAT and MRI scans concluded that he had suffered a fracture with a “light displacement to the lesser left tuberosity.” His arm was immobilized and he will begin rehabilitation in a few days’ time.
Overall Despres has the lead but Barreda is within striking range of passing the French rider on the final day. Lopez sits third, trailing Despres by over half an hour. Frans Verhoeven is fourth with Goncalves rounding out the top-five over 42 minutes off Despres’ lead.
Rally of Morocco Stage 5 Results 2012:
1. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) 2:42.55
2. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) +1.20
3. Sam Sunderland (Honda) +4.23
4. Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) +7.46
5. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) +8.24
Rally of Morocco Overall Standings 2012:
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 16:07.19
2. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) +5.33
3. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) +31.58
4. Frans Verhoeven (Yamaha) +36.37
5. Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) +42.50