Rallye du Maroc provides offroaders perfect Dakar preparation
(clockwise) Andrea Peterhansel/Stéphane Peterhansel, Giniel De Villiers/Alex Haro, Laia Sanz & Luciano Benavides © Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool
Thursday, October 10
The five desert stages of the 2019 Rallye du Maroc gave us a full season’s worth of cross-country drama. Leads came and went as competitors passed each other on the leaderboard throughout the week. Only now the dust has settled can we see who came out on top at this monumental tussle.
The one former Dakar Rally winner keeping his cool better than the rest in the car race was Giniel De Villiers (ZAF). The South African driver used all of his experience to hold off the final stage challenge from Carlos Sainz (ESP). The final gap between the Toyota in first place and Sainz’s MINI Buggy was 17min 42s.
“We won! A big thank you to the team for their hard work this week and also to Alex Haro for the navigation! This was one tough rally!” – Giniel De Villers
The week had started so well for Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) as he built up a useful lead over the first three desert stages in Morocco. However, that lead was to disappear on stage four as engine issues struck his Toyota Hilux.
Could the husband and wife team of Stéphane (FRA) and Andrea Peterhansel (GER) capitalise on the new leaderboard and reel in Al-Attiyah’s nine point FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies advantage?
The Peterhansels did exactly what they needed to do to secure fourth place overall at Rallye du Maroc, finishing the race one position behind Kuba Przygoński (POL). This gave the married couple the score they needed to win the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies by three precious points.
“What a race! It’s a really nice feeling to win the World Cup together, very emotional. I’m really happy for the whole team who have been working hard all season. Now I feel that we have a car that can win the Dakar!” – Stéphane Peterhansel
In the bike race it was Andrew Short (USA) who led home his team-mate Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) for a Husqvarna 1-2 result. Joan Barreda (ESP) held on for third overall with Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Toby Price (AUS) missing out on the podium by just seven seconds.
“Unfortunately I had one small crash on the final stage and landed on my head, so I’m a little bit stiff in the neck and just missed the podium by seven seconds. Now it’s all about looking forward to January and getting stronger for the Dakar.” – Toby Price
A sixth place overall finish was enough for Luciano Benavides (ARG) to end the season on a high. Price’s KTM team-mate was crowned the 2019 FIM Junior Cross-Country Rallies World Championship winner at the finish line in Morocco. It was a double celebration for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team as Laia Sanz (ESP) secured the 2019 FIM Women’s Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
“I finished sixth overall and first Junior. It was a good rally to build confidence for the Dakar and keep up my training with the new roadbook system.” – Luciano Benavides
Elsewhere in the bike race, Matthias Walkner (AUT) continued his recovery from injury to place seventh overall while the rally ended prematurely for 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship winner Sam Sunderland (GBR).
“I’m fine with how things went. Now I’ll take a little rest before going all in for Dakar preparation.” – Matthias Walkner
All eyes now turn to the first-ever Dakar Rally to be held in Saudi Arabia, scheduled to run from January 5 until January 17, 2020.
Cars – Final Overall
1. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) Toyota 17:48:44
2. Carlos Sainz (ESP) MINI Buggy +17:42
3. Kuba Przygoński (POL) MINI Rally +58:27
4. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) MINI Buggy +01:29:34
Bikes – Final Overall
1. Andrew Short (USA) Husqvarna 18:03:54
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) Husqvarna +01:21
3. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda +02:44
4. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +02:51
6. Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM +07:17
7. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM +07:38
18. Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM +01:25:31
Stéphane Peterhansel: “What a race! We really wanted to win the World Cup title, the first time a couple had ever done it. It’s a really nice feeling to win the World Cup together, very emotional. I’m really happy for the whole team who have been working hard all season. Now I feel that we have a car that can win the Dakar!”
Giniel De Villers: “We won! A big thank you to the team for their hard work this week and also to Alex Haro for the navigation! This was one tough rally!”
Carlos Sainz: “It has been a positive rally for us for many different reasons. The first reason we’re here was to check that all the testing was going in the right direction and that the car in general works good. It was also a good rally for us to get back up to speed after a long time out of the car. I’m pleased with what we were able to learn during the rally. We’ll be able to extract lots of useful information to help us prepare for the next Dakar. Two stage victories and second place overall is a good result for us.”
Kuba Przygoński: “It hasn’t been an easy race for us. On the first day we had problems with the brakes, but the rest of the days went very well. With Timo it’s getting better and better and we’re both happy to sit in the car together. The next rally for us is the Baja in Portugal, where we want to win the World Cup title.”
Toby Price: “This was definitely a difficult rally. All in all it was good training with the roadbook. Often we had to try and find our way without too much information. We’re happy with the result. We pushed really hard on the last day to try and get onto the podium. Unfortunately I had one small crash on the final stage and landed on my head, so I’m a little bit stiff in the neck and just missed the podium by seven seconds. Now it’s all about looking forward to January and getting stronger for the Dakar.”
Luciano Benavides: “It was a good rally for me, I finished sixth overall and first Junior. It was a good rally to build confidence for the Dakar and keep up my training with the new roadbook system. Really happy with my rhythm, I got in the middle of the pack a lot and was able to fight with the top guys.”
Matthias Walkner: “It’s not my best ever performance, but by the end the stages were going quite good. I won the prologue and was able to make improvements on the bike as we went. I’m still having to be careful with my knee when I’m riding. The new system of giving us the roadbook in the morning can be a good idea, but they still need to do more work on it to get it right. The roadbook needs to be perfect because if there’s not enough information you’ll get lost. But overall I’m fine with how things went. Now I’ll take a little rest before going all in for Dakar preparation.”
Laia Sanz: “This was a tough rally so I’m happy to finish safe. It was really good training for Dakar, that was always my main focus here. The result is not the best, but we did a good job with the suspension and a few other things on the bike. I’m happy and now ready to train hard until Dakar.”