Honda and Toyota squat the podium

RALLYE DU MAROC 2021

HONDA AND TOYOTA SQUAT THE PODIUM

Starter, mains, cheese course and dessert – that’s was the copious four course stage 1 menu awaiting competitors on today’s first stage ! After a quick 80 kilometre starter heading towards M’Hamid, David Castera served up the first major challenge of this 21st edition: 30 kilometres of dunes in the Chegaga Erg. This was followed by alternating sandy and hard tracks until CP1. For dessert, the return journey was on stony, twisty tracks with a finish 10 kilometres from the bivouac.

ROAD BOOK

 Stage 1 : A four course meal

Distances (km) :  L1: 143 / SS: 288 / L2 : 11 – Total : 442

ON TRACK

 In the bikes, the demands of opening the piste, especially in the sand storm encountered by the competitors coming out of the first sand dunes, meant that Honda’s strategy of starting way back this morning paid dividends. Feeling confident after successfully crossing the first erg, Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) remained unfazed by the difficult conditions, guiding teammates Ricky Brabec and Pablo Quintanilla to a Honda lock out of the virtual podium. Big losers on the day were the men who started 2nd  and 3rd this morning Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory) and Ross Branch (Monster Energy Yamaha Rally) both of whom gave away about 47 minutes after getting lost at around kilometre 120 in the storm. In Rally2 the 19 year old American Mason Klein (Bas KTM) posted the fastest time with the Russian Aleksandr Maksimov (Yamaha 700 Raptor) the quickest quad in the category. In Enduro Cup Afriquia, Axel Dutrie (Drag’on Yamaha Raptor) was fastest in the quads while the Moroccan Amine Echiguer (KTM OPC) leads the bikes.

In the cars, starting by choice from tenth place this morning, Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) initially struggled in the dust before overtaking 4 cars in the dunes to go onto to take the win 04:16 ahead of Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) with teammate Ronan Chabot (Toyota Overdrive) third at 14:30. Among the front runners far down the rankings this evening, following problems out on the track, are Jakub Przygonski (X-Raid Mini) who went through km 82 in 2nd place and Matthieu Serradori (SRT) 3rd at km 176. Fastest in the lightweight prototype T3 class was the Spanish lady driver Cristina Gutierrez (Red Bull Off Road Junior Team) 8th at 27:02 with the Polish driver Michal Goczal (Energylandia Rally Team) first home in T4 just 18 seconds behind in 10th place overall.

RADIO BIVOUAC

 As anyone who follows the sport knows, rally raid is more popular in some countries than others. What you might not know is that per capita the country with the most rally-raid fans is Lithuania. The Baltic state might not have much desert but among its 2.8 million population the Dakar enjoys an incredible 84% brand awareness. So what do you do if you’re a young Lithuanian who despite his tender years has already won the European Rallycross championship – you enter the Dakar of course. That anyway is what 21-year-old Rokas Baciuska has set his sights on. Obviously, it isn’t quite as straight forward as that. First of all you need to find yourself an experienced co-driver and here Rokas has hit the jackpot with ex-Hero Motosports factory rider Oriol Mena, who not only knows how to read a road book but can also impart invaluable dune crossing wisdom. You also need a competitive, cost-effective vehicle and here the right ingredients have also been found in the form of a South Racing prepared T4 Can-Am Maverick. Finally, you need as many kilometres under your belt as possible. So far Rokas as raced the Baja Aragon and the Polish Baja and as you might expect he has the speed, regularly in the top three at both events. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however. Because with the speed has come crashes and hefty time penalties and that is what Rokas Baciuska has come here to the Rallye du Maroc to iron out. “My SSV obviously has a lot less horsepower than a Rallycross car but so far I’ve loved driving it. Now I will get the chance to race it in the dunes and I can’t wait. I know I need to be more consistent but once I can master that element of the discipline I’m confident I can be competitive.”

STAT OF THE DAY :  2300

 That’s the width in millimetres of the new Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ developed by the Gazoo Racing team – the first T1+ to be tested under race conditions. On the next Dakar all four official Gazoo Racing cars will have the same spec, including that of Nasser Al-Attiyah. Upgrades include:

– 37-inch wheels (compared to 32 in T1) and 320mm tyre tread (compared to 245mm in T1, +75mm). Dimensions identical to those of the two-wheel drive buggies.

– 350 mm of suspension travel (compared to 280 mm in T1, +70 mm)

– 2300 mm width (compared to 2000 mm in T1, + 30 cm). Two-wheel drive buggies are limited to 2200 mm.

The version used this week by Erik Van Loon and Sébastien Delaunay remains the 5.0L V8 with 320 bhp and 520 Nm. In January some of the cars will be fitted with the new 3.5L V6 twin-turbo engine from the Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR-S that develops 415 bhp and 650 Nm.

THE RALLY DU MAROC AND ME 

Mathieu Serradori – Century CR6 SRT

 Where ?

“It was here in Zagora. It was my first rally. I was a total amateur in the Enduro Cup, without assistance. My background was in supermoto, enduro and motocross.”

When ?

“It was in 2007. I came back in 2008 on a rally bike with three friends to prepare for the Dakar, which ended up being cancelled. I then did three Dakars on bikes from 2009 to 2012. I even finished 2nd Frenchman in 20th place in 2010 when Cyril Despres won! In 2014 I returned to the Rallye du Maroc on four wheels.”

How ?

“I remember my first participation very well. The most impressive thing was entering the dunes for the first time, I had a knot in my stomach. For me Morocco is the very essence of rally-raid. If the Dakar is as famous as it is today, I think it’s partly because it crossed Morocco for decades”.

QUOTES

Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) : 1st

 “Really happy. It was not easy at the beginning with the dust from the other riders. Then when we got to the dunes I tried to push hard and found a good rhythm. After the dunes I saw a lot of riders confused but I stayed calm, found the right direction and saved a lot of time. After it was more straight forward and I rode a good stage.”

 Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) : 2nd at 01:10

 “It was a long day out there. Starting up front would have been tough. It was super windy. At one time I was thinking ‘they’re going to cancel the stage cos I can’t see nothing out here’. I was going really slow, the wind was wild but I met up with Joan (Barreda) and we got out of there. Now there’s four days left and tomorrow’s another long day.”

Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory) : 25th at 47:53

 “We were opening when at about km 120/130 we got caught in a dust storm. It got pretty bad. The boys caught us up there and we started riding back and forward trying to find the piste. I got lost coming out of a river bed. In all I gave away about 40 minutes or so, probably a bit more. A rough day, not a great way to start off the Rallye du Maroc but there’s still 4 days to go and we’ll just try and make some improvements to the bike and stay on 2 wheels”.

 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) : 1st

 “Not an easy stage. 300 kilometres with soft sand in the middle and the last part stony and rocky. But OK we did a really good job, no punctures. I think it is good to start the race like this. Tomorrow will be a long stage but we try and do our best. To be honest it wasn’t a good idea to pick tenth place this morning. Too much dust, though we did manage to pass four cars in the dunes…”

Mathieu Serradori (SRT) :

 “We had a good pace this morning and went really well through the dunes. We opened the piste for a while and Loic (Minaudier) did a good job. Obviously I’m disappointed because we would have fought for the podium here. Now we will change the engine and restart tomorrow and we’ll be able to try a few things like different tyres to compensate for the new engine restrictor which is causing us some problems.”

TOMORROW’S PROGRAMME

Distances :

L1: 211 / SS: 334 / L2 : 62 km – Total : 607 (Moto FIM / Auto FIA)

L1: 211 / SS: 318 / L2 : 62 – Total : 591 (Enduro Cup / Quad / SSV / Open)