In what truly was a winner takes all situation, Honda’s Paulo Goncalves won the Morocco Rally and with it the 2013 FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship over his rival on the KTM, Marc Coma.
Coma headed into the final round of the World Championship with a slight advantage to defend his 2012 World title with a three-point advantage over Goncalves. In the end it would all come down to the final 285-kilometer stage of the Morocco Rally – The Unseen Tracks – as Coma trailed Goncalves in third overall.
Although Coma got off to a great start and narrowed his time deficit on Goncalves, it would be a navigational error that would set him back again. Ultimately ending his hopes of another rally win and the back-to-back championship.
Instead a very happy Goncalves would win the race and the title by three minutes and 44 seconds.
“Today has been a fantastic day for me,” Goncalves said. “I’ve won the World Championship title and also the race. I’m really pleased for me and for the Speedbrain team. We’ve done a great job together. Since Brazil, we have been able to win the last two races and the title.”
While Goncalves won two out of six stages of the Morocco Rally, his teammate Joan Barreda would win three, almost fulfilling a Honda sweep on their newly released Honda CRF450 Rally bike. The newly crowned Champion Goncalves gave credit to his teammate Barreda’s efforts in helping him win the title.
“I wanted to also thank Joan Barreda who has really helped me,” acknowledged Goncalves. “Without his help, it would have been really hard to win this title.”
Barreda finished ninth in the final stage due to an early crash that damaged his navigation screen. He was able to navigate his way through the stage by following tracks of other riders. Barreda’s ninth place finish resulted in a podium effort with third overall.
Putting an end to the Honda sweep of the Morocco Rally was KTM Australia’s Ben Grabham, who beat Honda’s Helder Rodrigues by one minute and 11 seconds. Following him in third was American Kurt Caselli on the Factory KTM. Caselli would ultimately finish seventh overall, despite his 20-minute penalty he received in stage one.
The KTM team was also running their new KTM 450 Rally bike for the first time in competition. Both Honda and KTM team managers expressed their satisfaction with the new race bikes and were happy to have the dry run to prepare for the 2014 Dakar Rally in January.
2013 Morocco Rally Stage Six Results:
1. Ben Grabham (KTM) 2:26:39 hours
2. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) +00:01:18
3. Kurt Caselli (KTM) +00:02:41
4. Jeremias Israel (Speedbrain) +00:03:00
5. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +00:04:56
6. Marc Coma (KTM) +00:08:26
7. Frans Verhoeven (Yamaha) +00:11:06
8. Alessandro Botturi (Speedbrain) +00:16:40
9. Joan Barreda (Honda) +00:17:14
10. Olivier Pain (Yamaha) +00:18:35
2013 Morocco Rally Overall Results:
1. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 17:08:59 hours
2. Marc Coma (KTM) +00:03:44
3. Joan Barreda (Honda) +00:07:39
4. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) +00:32:58
5. Sam Sunderland (Honda) +00:45:57
6. Ben Grabham (KTM) +00:55:08
7. Kurt Caselli (KTM) +01:04:32
8. Olivier Pain (Yamaha) +01:06:09
9. Alessandro Botturi (Speedbrain) +01:08:58
10. Frans Verhoeven (Yamaha) +01:41:38