After two days dedicated to scrutineering at the Hotel Marriott in Fez, 153 race vehicles set off this morning direction Erfoud for the first stage of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc.
Very technical in the mountains and rocky over the first part, the 226 km special for the FIA cars and FIM bikes and 204 km for the Maroc Telecom SSVs, Open and Enduro Cup Afriquia, became more rolling after the first 160 kms. At the end the FIA car and FIM bike competitors headed into a section of camel grass and small dunes while the Maroc Telecom SSVs, Open and Enduro Cup Afriquia categories went directly to the end of the special at the bivouac. This first stage was the chance for the competitors to try out the new colour road book.
FIM BIKES: FIRST STAGE FOR QUINTANILLA
Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) couldn’t have hoped for better for this first stage of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc. Starting 18th this morning, the Chilean rider rode a good pace over the first kilometres, negotiating the tricky navigation to finally post the fastest time at the 2019 Rallye du Maroc bivouac. The Husqvarna rider beat the KTM of Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) into second place by 40” with the American Ricky Brabec (Honda) third at 1’31”. Overall, with the prologue times having a coefficient 4, Sam Sunderland is this evening’s overall leader 28” ahead of Quintanilla, with Brabec third at 1’07”. In the quads victory went to the Chilean Ignacio Casale (Yamaha Raptor) just ahead of the Frenchman Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha Raptor) with the Pole Sonik Rafal third. Alex Dutrie (Team Drag’on) lost considerably time when he broke his left-hand drive shaft.
Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
“For a first day it was a really tough one. Almost all the stage was really stony, tricky and technical. In the end the tyre was not so good and the bike was moving a lot. And we had to get used to the new system of road book. It is not easy when you are used to using your own system, so we need some time to learn it. For everybody it is the same. Honestly I didn’t feel so good. I still have a lot of pain in my leg when I have to push, so I tried to stay calm and not take risks.”
Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
“It was the first day with the new road book. You had to be careful. My tyres are destroyed but we knew that was going to happen. Everybody was in the same situation. We just had to do our best.”
Paulo Goncalves (Hero Motosports Team Rally)
“A complicated stage. Stony and a lot of trials type terrain. A tough start to this Rallye du Maroc. But I arrive here without problems. The Hero was working well and I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda Team)
“I didn’t really make any mistakes all day. I was riding really slow and trying to be cautious. I slowed down a couple of times to check things but I never rode around in circles. The first half was very difficult for me, especially with the new road book. The second however was really good for me. A lot of rocks and I really enjoy that.”
Adrien Van Beveren (Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team)
“I have been ill these last couple of days and this morning it started again. I did the best I could – it was very long and very hard, not much fun for me. Lots of stones. I didn’t have a great time…”
Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda Team)
“Difficult, a lot of trials. We spent a lot of time in 1st gear. We were expecting a faster stage. The pace was slow. These stages are not very easy, so I just tried to finish and make a good job. Only the last bit was a bit easier in the dunettes.”
Andrew Short (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
“I didn’t feel so comfortable. It was really slippery, and I don’t think I made the right choice with the tyre. Navigation was ok.”
Rafal Sonik (Sonik Team)
“I did this stage last year in the opposite direction and I had quite a big lead and I was thinking how lucky I was not to have to push because in some places it is very tricky. Today I had to fight but I was trying to not push too hard because so much could have gone wrong. Extremely demanding stage.”
FIA CARS: A DAY OF CONTRASTS FOR TOYOTA
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) is clearly very at home on the Moroccan pistes. Winner of the first stage, the Qatari driver had a virtually trouble-free run today, aside from one puncture that he quickly changed with the help of his co-driver Mathieu Baumel. Behind him Mathieu Serradori (Century Racing CR6) celebrated his 40th birthday in style with a fine second place, 2’39” behind the five times Rallye du Maroc winner. Nasser’s team mate Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing), completed the day’s podium at 3’14”. It wasn’t however a perfect day for the South African Toyota Gazoo Racing team, with Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing) hitting a stone just after CP3 that stopped him for twenty or so minutes, before he was able to carry onto the bivouac at reduced speed. In the end the double Formula 1 World Champion gave away 45 minutes. Over at the Minis Stéphane Peterhansel (Mini John Cooper Works Buggy), leading for much of the day, finally finished fourth at 5’14” while Carlos Sainz (Mini John Cooper Works Buggy) lost more than a quarter of an hour following multiple punctures.
Nasser Al-Attiya (Toyota Hilux)
“It was a hard day. Tricky from the beginning with 100 km of mountains. Then the last bit was more open desert with a lot of rivers. We had one flat tyre but we fixed it quickly. But ok, I’m really quite happy to have this performance and to be winning the stage.”
Mathieu Serradori (Century Racing CR6)
“We started this morning in 14th position, in accordance with our race number. David Castera warned us that it was bumpy and twisty right from the start and we had to be patient because we were quickly in the dust of the car in front. We eventually had 3 / 4 cars ahead of us, so we saw we had a good pace, but we started calm and took our time to get past them: Roma, Alonso, Garafulic, then Van Loon and for my 40th birthday we managed to avoid getting a puncture. We’ve made a good start. Fabian did a great job with the navigation and then at the end we got into terrain a little more suit to our buggy.”
Stephane Peterhansel (Mini John Cooper Works Buggy)
“I haven’t done the Rallye du Maroc too many times. I certainly don’t remember having done a stage here so mountainous, rocky and slow. I thought we were going to lose a lot of time in the mountains with the buggy being so wide and the two-wheel drive spinning its wheels a lot, but we weren’t too bad. At least until the tyres got really bad towards the end. The special was tricky but nice – as long as you avoided the rocks. With Andrea everything went well, she didn’t make any mistakes. She was a little bit stressed this morning after seeing the road book with a note every 100 metres and all the holes but in the end everything went OK.”
Fernando Alonso (Toyota Hilux Overdrive)
“Overall I think it has been OK – a positive day. We finished the stage with a couple of issues. We punctured three times and we only have two spares, so we had to wait for a car to ask a favour. We learnt a lot and did some kilometres and hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a better stage.”
ENDURO CUP AFRIQUIA / SSV MAROC TELECOM / OPEN CARS/TRUCKS: FLICK, CURRIE, LAVIEILLE AND VALTR, EARLY LEADERS
In the Enduro Cup Afriquia category Xavier Flick (Sherco TVS Rally Factory) wins the day’s stage. The Sherco rider takes part in his first Rallye du Maroc after having won his place on the Casteu Trophy. He leads Damien Miquel-Orlandi. (RS Concept CBO) by 13’21’’ and Vincent Padrona (Corsica ATV Team) at 39’28’’.
The Dutchman Tom Van Der Valk finishes ahead of the America Casey Currie (Monster Ernergy Can-Am) by 1’43’’in the SSV Maroc Telecom category and the Portuguese crew led by Serpa Rui (Yamaha) at 5’18’’.
In the Open car category Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body took the first two places with Christian Lavieille finishing ahead of Philippe Gache. Jean-Antoine Sabatier was third at 32’17’’. In the Open trucks Jaroslav Valtr (Iveco Powerstar Torpedo) wins the first stage ahead of his team mate Martin Macik (Iveco Powerstar Torpedo).
Xavier Flick (Sherco TVS Rally Factory)
“Overall it was a good day, with a lot of dust because we started behind the last cars and SSVs. We took our time to overtake them without taking any risks.”
Stage 2: Sunday 6 October: Aoufous – Aoufous
The first loop around the bivouac is varied, well-balanced, difficult and features plenty of dunes, including the famous Chebbi Erg. Trials at the end, cars will have to be careful of punctures. FIM / FIA competitors have 45 km of liaison followed by 386 km of special finishing directly in the bivouac. The Enduro Cup bikes and Open class cars, SSVs and trucks share their liaison before embarking on 282 km of special and 65 km of liaison to bring them back to the bivouac.
FOCUS ON…. THE 2019 RALLYE DU MAROC BIVOUAC!
David Castera and ODC Events wanted to go back to cross-country rally basics and opted to set up a 70 000 m2 bivouac right in the middle of the desert, complete with 500 beds! Both authentic and comfortable, it features everything you might expect: catering, showers and toilets and some you might not: a massage and chill out zone… and a line of table football tables! A medical tent staffed by 24 personnel is also open to all. Concerts will be laid on every night in the bivouac’s ‘main square’.