Stage 4 at the Morocco Desert Challenge (MDC) was the first loop stage of the rally, with the 275km special beginning and ending at the bivouac in Foum Zguid. Searing heat and sandstorms played a part, plus the stage saw the competitors enter the dunes of Erg Chegaga for the first time as the fourth day of eight concluded.
Tarrés has been on an incredible run so far in Morocco. The Andorran was third during the first Prologue and followed this up with fourth in Stage 2. The 29-year-old was back on the podium during Tuesday’s Stage 3 in third, and he backed up that performance with another stunning ride to the rostrum on Wednesday.
Blasting through the valleys and rocky trails on his Ténéré 700 World Raid, the former Enduro rider made the most of his time in the dunes despite many of them being broken. This can be tricky for competitors, as it means there is a sheer drop on the other side of a blind crest, and it can result in disaster, but Tarrés was up to the challenge. He was leading just after the halfway point of the stage and pushed until the end to secure third with a time of three hours, 59 minutes and two seconds, just five minutes and nine seconds behind the stage winner.
His teammate Faggotter, who is replacing Alessandro Botturi in the team for the MDC due to a schedule clash for the latter, had another strong stage. The Australian, competing in his first rally since the 2020 Dakar, had not ridden in the dunes for three years, and it was his first time taking on such a challenge on the Ténéré 700 World Raid. Building his confidence, he used the bike's extra torque and power to conquer the challenging terrain but was caught out, along with several other riders, by a mistake in the roadbook at the 150km mark.
Riding on his own, a marked waypoint did not trigger his GPS, and the 49-year-old re-traced his steps to see if he had made a mistake, but there was an issue with the system. This saw him lose over ten minutes to the leaders, through no fault of his own, before deciding to carry on. Determined to make up the time, he got his head down and finished the special in four hours, six minutes and 51 seconds, only seven minutes and 49 seconds behind his teammate.
Having made it through the first four days of the MDC, Tarrés’ third podium of the rally sees him leapfrog his teammate into third in the general classification with a total time of 14 hours, 26 minutes and 58 seconds, and he now leads the Bike Big category (60cc and above). Having lost time due to the missing waypoint, Faggotter swapped places with Tarrés and is currently fourth in the overall standings, six minutes and 22 seconds behind his teammate and maintaining the Ténéré World Raid Team’s 1-2 in class.
Thursday’s 335km Stage 5 at the MDC features a liaison of 57.2km and has a little bit of everything thrown in, with some challenging navigational sections at the start, a return to the Erg Chegaga dunes, rocky trails, camel grass, and some fast-flowing sections on the dried Lake Iriki, before ending at the bivouac in M'hamid. Everyone in the Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team offers their sincere condolences to the family, friends and team of French co-pilot Laurent Lichtleuchter in the SSV class, who sadly passed away on Wednesday's Stage 4.