RALLYE DU MAROC 2021
RECORD ENTRY GETS UNDERWAY
Super Special for the bikes, Qualifying Special for the cars. They might have different titles, they shared the same purpose – to determine the start order for tomorrow’s 1st stage, so that everyone can cover the special in the company of competitors of a similar ability. On the menu: a mini 13 km liaison, an 11 kilometre sprint and then another 13 kilometre liaison back to the bivouac. The first part was over stony tracks with numerous changes of direction, some at right angles. The second half of the special was on faster sandy tracks, with less risk of punctures.
Distances (km) : L1: 13 / Super Special-Qualifying Special : 11 / L2 : 13 – Total : 37
In RallyGP it was as if the team managers, themselves ex-competitors, were back racing. Hero chose to go flat out and placed their 3 bikes in the top 5 with Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero Motorsports) finishing ahead of Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory) aboard his brand new bike, with Ross Branch (Monster Energy Yamaha Rally) third. Honda adopted the opposite strategy with their 4 riders occupying places 20 to 23. Apparently, a coefficient of 4 (the actual time multiplied by 4) wasn’t enough to discourage them. The other factory teams aimed more for the middle ground. How it plays out over the next 5 days remains to be seen but for sure it has provoked plenty of discussion both in the bivouac and on social media. In Rally2 victory went to Bradley Cox, son of ex-KTM factory rider Alfie with first quad that of Czech Tomas Kubiena (Yamaha 700 Raptor). In the Enduro Cup Axel Dutrie was quickest aboard his Yamaha with the Moroccan Amine Echiguer (see Radio Bivouac) making a dream rally-raid debut by being first bike across the line in the category.
In the FIA car category the first 10 were able to select their starting position for tomorrow’s stage, so nobody was hanging around. Victory on the stage went to the ever hard charging Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) ahead of Toyota teammate Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) with Mathieu Serradori (Century CR6 SRT) third. First T3 home was that of Matthieu Margaillan (Can-Am Maverick X3) just ahead of the day’s fastest T4 driven by the Pole Marek Goczal (BRP Can-Am Maverick XRS). In Open victory went to Patrick Prot in his Nissan RS13 with Martin Macik (Iveco Powerstar) taking honours in the Truck Open class.
There might be a record number of Moroccan participants on the Rallye du Maroc but only one entered on a bike in the Enduro Cup Afriquia class. It is Amine Echiguer’s first rally-raid but the 30 something from Rabat has a solid motorsport background and plenty of ambition. Three times Moroccan moto-x champion and a top 40 finisher in the ultra-competitive French beach racing championship, Amine is planning to be at the sharp end of his category and has built a small but dedicated team around him to help achieve that ambition. Crucially he also the full backing of OCP, the consortium of main partners of the Rallye du Maroc who have big plans to develop young African talent in the discipline. That’s allowed him for example to complete a navigation course with hugely experienced ex-biker and car co-pilot Jean Brucy. “There’s a lot to learn and 3 days with Jean wasn’t nearly enough but I have the speed on the bike and the maturity. I reckon the Enduro Cup Afriquia class is the right way to make my rally-raid debut on bikes similar to what I’m used to racing. I’m really looking forward to it.”
STAT OF THE DAY : 240
Represents the extremely healthy total number of vehicles authorised to start the 2021 Rallye du Maroc. Broken down that’s 59 FIA cars, 4 FIA 2022 cars, 29 Open cars/SSVs/trucks, 30 RallyGP bikes, 91 Rally2 bikes and quads and 27 Enduro Cup Afriquia bikes and quads. All these vehicles have been entered by 41 different nationalities. The top 3 are France (127), Spain (31) and Italy (25). Morocco is 8th in the rankings with 9 participants.
THE RALLY DU MAROC AND ME
Andrea Peterhansel – Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Sport Manager
“Ouarzazate. I was a factory rider for BMW. It was my penultimate year with them because they switched over to flat twin powered bikes. They let me rider another year on the mono and then it was over.“
“It was in 2000, the first edition, though I’d already raced in Morocco on the Atlas Rally.”
“It didn’t end well. I broke my leg. An open fracture. I still have the scar. It was 20 km from the finish of the race and I was 5th overall. I was lying on the ground, waiting for the helicopter. Schlesser stopped to see if I was OK. The next car to come was Peterhansel… He didn’t back off. It took me a few years to forgive him! Then I drove for Mitsubishi here. The last time I raced on The Rally du Maroc was as a co-driver in 2019 when I crashed out in a Mini driven by my husband… Stephane Peterhansel.”
Wolfgang Fischer (Hero Motorsports Team Manager) : “The issue today was how you start tomorrow. As we saw, some riders got on the gas while some rode slowly. We will see later on which was the right choice. From a sporting point of view I think you should always get on the gas. For me it is always good to win a prologue or a stage.”
Ruben Faria (Monster Energy Honda Team Manager) : “In a race like the Rallye du Maroc, with five days to go, to start first is perhaps not the best thing, so we decided not to push hard and to handle the Super Special in a relaxed manner. We think it’s not a bad result: 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd, which will allow us to start from behind and try to pull back.”
Andrea Peterhansel (Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Sports Manager) : “We didn’t want to open tomorrow that’s for sure but personally I didn’t want our riders to be starting from too far back, more than 15th. The risk is too much dust or being blocked by slower riders.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) : “So I chose to start 10th tomorrow. That way I can have longer in bed, I have the tracks of the others to follow and I keep my co-driver happy !”
Distances (km) : L1: 143 / SS: 288 / L2 : 11 – Total : 442