Morocco Rally: Honda’s Rodrigues Wins Stage One

2012 Morocco Rally Stage One Results

The 2012 Morocco Rally – the final rally race ahead of the 2013 Dakar Rally – got underway Monday with the first of six stages that took riders 271 kilometers.

And taking the win was Helder Rodrigues, the Portuguese rider making his debut on the Team HRC Honda CRF450 Rally. This was an exceptional start for not only Rodrigues, but also factory Honda, which will return to Dakar this January for the first time in 24 years.

Rodrigues would finish the first stage one minute and 12 seconds ahead of KTM’s Marc Coma and two minutes and 20 seconds ahead of KTM’s Cyril Despres, who won the 2012 Dakar Rally.

Explaining the stage, Honda says “the first of the 6 stages of the Morocco Rally was really a warm up with riders tackling all kinds of terrains: fasttracks, dunes and rocky paths. The first part of the stage was very fast, rocky and quite dangerous with many points signaled with “danger 3.”

“The track took the competitors on a large plateau followed by a steep descent into a canyon, before crossing the Erg. After the service in Merzouga the riders continued on a fast and rocky track till the end of the stage, located near Erfourd, the base of the bivouac for the first two days.”

Helder Rodrigues says: “I’m very happy with this result, winning the first stage in my first race with a new machine and a new team is a great satisfaction. This is just the first day but it’s nice to start on top. The CRF 450 RALLY is working well, we have a very good base and this race is also good for testing before the Dakar, which is our target. Today it was a good stage with a diversified terrain. I rode with Coma and Despres, we were very close and finally I won.”

As for Coma, this was his first race since winning the 2012 Cross-Countries World Rally.

Marc Coma says: “I’m happy. It has been a good day because the first stage was not easy. Besides opening up the course, we had to take on the first dunes and, as it rained yesterday, the tracks in the sand were very faded. Navigation was important and as usual, I lost a little time through starting ahead. Anyway, I’m glad that I kept up my pace. Since the Rally of Sardinia I haven’t competed in a Rally Raid and today I felt good physically.

“Tomorrow we have the longest stage, with many miles of dunes. It’s going to be a tough day and a varied one, with plenty of navigation, so it will be an important point in the week. We will cross the Erg Chebbi, which is an area we know well because we have trained there, but we cannot relax and we must be even more vigilant of the roadbook.”

The American Team HRC rider, Johnny Campbell, rode consistently in stage one. Despite some navigation mistakes, Campbell finished 16th.

Johnny Campbell says: “The track today was very fast, let’s say 90% very fast track and 10% off track in the dunes. There was a lot of rocks and dust but in general it was OK. This is the first major race I have competed in since 2001 so it takes me a little time to get into the race rhythm again, in terms of speed and intensity, while physically I’m OK.

“I made some navigation mistakes and I lost 10 minutes before arriving at the service. Then I regrouped and finished 16th. The CRF 450 RALLY is working really well, it has a strong power and I look forward to the next stage”.

Tomorrow’s second stage is a 359km run that begins with a short 27km print, followed by a 315km route crossing the Erg Chebbi in the southeast of the country. It is the longest stage of the Rally.

Morocco Rally Stage 1 Results:

  1. #3 Helder Rodrigues (PRT) 2h59min50s – HONDA
  2. #1 Marc Coma (ESP) 3h01min02s – KTM
  3. #2 Cyril Despres (FR) 3h02min10s – KTM
  4. #8 Joan Barreda (ES) 3h10min31s – Husqvarna
  5. #5 Paulo Gonçalves (PRT) 3h13min26s – Husqvarna
  6. #22 Johnny Campbell (USA) 3h32min28s – HONDA