After the bikes and SSVs yesterday, today it was the turn of the cars and trucks to pass through scrutineering. At the end of these two days of checks 40 FIA cars (of which 14 are FIA SSVs), 23 SSVs, 9 Open cars and 2 Open trucks, 60 bikes and 19 quads - a grand total of 153 vehicles - were authorised to take the start of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc, last round of the 2019 FIA Cross-Country World Cup and the 2019 FIM World Championship.
If the race really gets underway tomorrow, the bikes and quads today nevertheless covered a 7 kilometre prologue, mainly to decide the start order for the first stage.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) was one of the first favourites to turn up at scrutineering this morning. The five times winner of the Rallye du Maroc is back, more determined than ever to hold onto his crown, even if his principle objective is to win the FIA Cross-Country World Cup, which he is currently leading. There are however a number of his rivals keen to put an end to his impressive run of victories – starting with his own teammates, Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing) and Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing). The interest generated by the entry of the Spanish driver on the 2019 Rallye du Maroc is equalled only by his talent – exceptional. A little off the pace on the last Dakar, the Mini drivers of Team X-Raid, Stéphane Peterhansel (X-Raid John Cooper Works Team) and Carlos Sainz (X-Raid John Cooper Works Team) will be wanting to show that the work carried out on the their ‘young’ buggies by the German constructor has borne fruit. ‘Monsieur Dakar’, currently just nine points behind Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) in the 2019 FIA Cross-Country World Cup, is still in with a chance of taking the crown.
The 2019 Rallye du Maroc outsiders, although not able to take the world title, are all nevertheless motivated to take a prestigious victory. Jakub Przygonski (Orlen Team X-Raid), second last year, is hoping to shine on the Moroccan tracks in the 4x4 version of the Mini X-Raid. Nani Roma (Bogward BX7), Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota Gazoo Racing), Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) and Mathieu Serradori (Century Racing CR6) are also in with a shout at victory over the five stages of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc.
In the Open class, Jean-Antoine Sabatier (Bugg Afrique), Philippe Gache (Team Landcruiser Toyota Auto Body) and Christian Lavieille (Team Landcruiser Toyota Auto Body) are tipped to be among the front runners.
In the trucks, victory will be fought out between the Czechs Martin Macik (Big Shock Racing) and Jaroslav Valtr (Valtr Racing Team), both aboard IVECOs.
In the afternoon the bikes and quads raced the 7 kilometre prologue, laid out in the mountains just outside Fez. It counts towards the overall classifications but also allows the fastest to choose their start position for the 1st stage. This short warm up allowed Matthias Walkner (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to take the lead and to choose to start in 15th position position tomorrow on the 1st stage, with Johnny Aubert (Sherco TVS Rally Factory) opening the piste. Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team) finished second at 2”. The ex-moto-x riders were obviously at home on such a track, as third place went to Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Michael Metge (Sherco TVS Factory Racing) lost around 40 seconds following a small crash at the end of the special. In the Enduro Cup category Guillaume Borne (Team Maroc) was the fastest, ahead of Xavier Flick (Sherco TVS Rally Factory) and Damien Miquel-Orlandi (RS Concept CBO).
STAGE 1 – SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER:
The first stage of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc will take the competitors from Fez to the bivouac in Erfoud via 471 kilometres for the FIM and FIA categories and 449 kilometres for those entered in SSV, Enduro and Open classes. The route will be the same until PK210 of the selective section where the FIA and FIM vehicles will enter the dunes, while the others will go directly to the bivouac.
LIVE FROM THE HOTEL MARRIOTT IN FEZ
Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
“The Rallye du Maroc is my first international rally. It is a great pleasure to work with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team and be able to benefit from their experience. My goal is to do some trouble-free kilometres to go to the Dakar in the best possible conditions. I will take advantage of every moment of this rally.”
Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
“I am very happy to be here once again. We use this race as a test for the Dakar. We hope to race a good rally and take a podium. The new road-book will be a new challenge for everybody. We are looking forward to trying it out.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
“It is a little like my second home here! We have a lot of experience on this rally. We are here to win. This is a special edition because all the best teams are here. It isn’t going to be easy.”
Souad Mouktadiri (Mouktadiri Racing Team)
“It is a pleasure to be on the Rallye du Maroc. I would like to thank David Castera for his support and the support he gives our country. We are a 100% female Moroccan crew. I hope we will finish the rally and have a good race. We are well prepared.”
Sohrmat Anas (Team Sodicars)
“I normally race in the American Supersport championship. This is the first time I have entered a rally-raid. I am very happy to be able to have this new experience. I have trained a lot and I don’t think I will have any fitness problems. It will be a discovery for me. I have the chance to share a car with Franck Maldonado.”
Nani Roma (Bogward)
“It is a challenge for me! Everything is new, the team, the car, the co-driver. It is always a pleasure to be on the Rallye du Maroc. Our objective is to continue to work on the car for the Dakar.”
Stéphane Peterhansel (X-Raid John Cooper Works Team)
“We will continue to work hard to improve our buggy. We were still testing yesterday afternoon. It has been a few years since I have raced on the Rallye du Maroc. It is always a pleasure to be here. We are here to get the best possible result and to prepare for the coming months. It is still possible to win the 2019 FIA World Cup. We will do our best. Today the new road book has everyone a bit worried, but it was the right choice. All the bike riders and co-drivers were working half the night which meant they were tired the next day. So that everyone is on an equal footing a solution was needed. I think this is the best one.”
Carlos Sainz (X-Raid John Cooper Works Team)
“I have never had much success on this race. I don’t race much, so it is important I do a good result here. The new road book will make the race more open. We will see if it makes it more difficult. The philosophy of the road book will be the same for the Dakar so it is important to be here.”
With 37 vehicles entered in the FIA SSV and SSV OPEN classes the popularity of this little vehicle continues to grow. The ideal compromise between performance and affordability, they are particularly at home in the sand and the dunes where its light weight and manoeuvrability are major advantages.
“The SSV category is fantastic for all the competitors, be they those with not much experience, who want to try out rally-raid, or drivers with several years’ experience,” remarks Scott Abraham, the team manager of South Racing, who made their debut in 2016 and won the 2018 Dakar in the FIA SSV class. “The future looks good, especially as a lot of young drivers are choosing this type of vehicle. The top-level teams are starting to show an interest in the FIA SSV category and the competition will no doubt become more intense in the future.”
The South Racing team have entered 5 vehicles in the FIA SSV class. “The Rallye du Maroc is one of the biggest events of the year. It is the rally that allows us to finalise our Dakar preparation.,” concludes Scott.