Merzouga Bikes, Stage 4: Hero's Rodrigues improves as Benavides takes lead
The lead of Merzouga Rally changed hands at the end of Stage 4 as Hero MotoSport's Joaquim Rodrigues maintained top 10 position while CS Santosh kept his top 20 spot.
After the third stage was cut short due to desert storm, the riders set out to cover 311km of the fourth stage on Thursday at Morocco.
Stage 4 saw three checkpoints having two short road section of 107km (76km & 31km) and a long 204km selective pathway in the marathon stage.
Having broken into the overall top 10 after Stage 3, Rodrigues continued his impressive run as he finished 12th, 39.49s off fourth stage winner Kevin Benavides (Honda).
The Portguese moved a place up to ninth in the overall standings with a total time of 16hr24.54s and is over two hours down on the leader's time.
"My first ever (two-day) marathon stage didn't start that great. I got lost too many times on Wednesday and had a crash," said Rodrigues.
"My navigation device broke and that was really bad. Luckily I found a fellow rider and followed him to the bivouac. I managed to fix the bike and started Stage 4 alright.
"I was trying to catch the riders in front of me and got a little lost. Still it was a pretty good ride, happy to have finished this new challenge, he explained.
Meanwhile, Santosh who has had a mixed run until now, further enhanced his experience finishing 23rd in the fourth stage.
The Indian thereby maintained his 19th place in the overall list headed by a new leader Benavides taking over from KTM's Stefan Svitko with one stage remaining.
"Wednesday was extremely tough. The organisers had told us it was going to be demanding and it was for sure," Santosh said.
"They cut things short because of the weather, which was the right decision. Thursday morning I started well, but I made a mistake in the navigation.
"That cost me a lot of time. Overall I'm happy to be back at the main bivouac," added the Bangalore-based rider.
Benavides now is just 3.05s ahead of Svitko as Yamaha's Adrien van Beveren completes the top three heading into the final day.
Merzouga Bikes, Stage 3: Rodrigues in top 10 as Svitko leads after desert storm hit
Merzouga, Stage 5: Benavides wins as Rodrigues ends lead Hero rider