Morocco, struck by a devastating earthquake on 8 September, has decided to go ahead with the 23rd Rallye du Maroc, scheduled for 12 to 18 October. As originally planned, the fifth and final round of the W2RC will take place on a 2,240 km course stretching from Agadir to Zagora and on to Merzouga, divided into a prologue and five stages.
Once again, Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing), the reigning FIA world champion and a six-time winner of the Rallye du Maroc, is the leader of the championship going into this race. His co-driver, Mathieu Baumel, and his manufacturer already sewed up their world champion title defences in Argentina.
Mitch Guthrie (Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA) rocketed into the T3 lead in the Desafío Ruta 40, while Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) is already mathematically assured of the T4 title.
Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna Factory Racing) seized the FIM championship lead from Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in the fourth round, where Honda also bumped KTM from the top spot in the manufacturer ranking.
Romain Dumontier (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing) scaled to the summit of the Rally2 standings in Argentina.Ardit Kurtaj (Xraids Experience) leads the Rally3 category. Laisvydas Kancius remains the man to beat in the quad competition.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO ROUND 5
Like every year, the Rallye du Maroc is the last major get-together before the Dakar, which is now positioned as the first round of the next W2RC season. Its dual role as the grand finale for the key players of the FIA-FIM World Championships and as a dress rehearsal for the whole field places it at the intersection of the two big prizes of the season and consistently attracts a star-studded crowd. The competition for the places of honour and their bounty of points is fierce, so anyone who heads to Morocco with just a few points to spare over his championship rivals is playing with fire.
No-one in the car race understands this better than Nasser Al Attiyah, who was won this event six times (2014 through 2018 and again in 2021) and knows it like the back of his hand. Less than a month from now, the reigning world champion will rev up his engine with a comfortable margin over his closest rival, Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing). The Qatari picked up his third win of the season in round 4 in Argentina, expanding his lead from 30 to 51 points over the Saudi (189 to 138). The 24-year-old Argentinian Juan Cruz Yacopini (Overdrive Racing) finished second in his home race, the Desafío Ruta 40, and is now third overall with 109 points, 8 ahead of Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) with 101.
In T3, the nail-biter of the FIA season, Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA’s American drivers continued their merry-go-round on the podium after round 4. Mitch Guthrie soared from third to first place thanks to back-to-back victories in Mexico and Argentina and now holds the lead with 174 points, but Austin Jones (171 points) and Seth Quintero (165 points) are hot on his heels. Guthrie Jr., AJ and Seth will put on a thrilling battle royale in Morocco!
In T4, the reigning world champion, Rokas Baciuška, is mathematically assured of his second title (189 points) after making a clean sweep of the first three rounds on the calendar. Shinsuke Umeda (Xtreme Plus) has dutifully entered each race of the season, racking up 129 points —good enough for second place, ahead of Energylandia’s whiz kid Eryk Goczał (86 points), who has focused on his studies this year.
In the motorbike competition, Luciano Benavides claimed his maiden RallyGP win in a W2RC round on home soil in early September. The younger Benavides surged from second to first place overall, with 80 points. Mechanical troubles prevented the former leader, Toby Price, from finishing higher than seventh among the W2RC RallyGP riders and sent him home with 71 points on his account. 9 points separate the two factory riders. Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Honda) is still third, now with 66 points, 14 fewer than the leader. The Desafío Ruta 40 also shook up the manufacturer ranking, with Honda wresting the top spot from KTM. The reds now have 128 points to KTM’s 122 and Husqvarna’s 114. Both the riders and their teams will have to make the difference in the Rallye du Maroc.
In Rally2, the withdrawal of Paolo Lucci (BAS World KTM Racing) played into the hands of Romain Dumontier, who took over the reins of the World Cup in Argentina. The Frenchman (79 points) has 13 points in hand over the Italian (66 points). Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Rally) is third with 58. In Rally3, the Albanian-born Ardit Kurtaj clinched his first win of the season and moved into the championship lead with 45 points, ahead of the Italian Massimo Camurri (25 points) and the Ecuadorian Mauricio Cueva (20 points). In the quad category, Rodolfo Guillioli and Juraj Varga inched closer to Laisvydas Kancius after the championship leader skipped the Argentinian round. The Lithuanian has 69 points to the Guatemalan’s 53 and the Slovak’s 46.
THE KINGDOM OF RALLY RAIDS
The 23rd edition of the Rallye du Maroc is a grandiose eastward journey across the Sharifian Kingdom, from the sand on the resort beaches of Agadir to the orange dunes of Merzouga. In keeping with the tradition in Morocco, which has been a focal point for rally-raids ever since the inception of the sport, David Castera (see quote below) and his team have woven a rich tapestry of terrains, registers and navigational challenges. After a 119 km trek on the day of the prologue near Agadir, two bivouacs will punctuate the race. The first stopover will be in Zagora, near the Erg Chegaga, the largest golden sand sea in the country. The Rallye du Maroc set up camp here in 2021. Next, the caravan will move on to Merzouga, the village that lent its name to the tallest dunes in the country. Each of the two most challenging ergs (seas of dunes) in Morocco will make a double appearance. The Erg Chegaga will feature in stage 1 (721 km), which will get under way with a road section between Agadir and the start of the 324 km opening special in Tata. Its dunes will return in stage 2 (388 km). This 288 km special takes the unusual step of mapping out separate courses for the FIA and FIM categories to keep the bikers safe while upping the ante for the navigators in the car race. Stage 3 (444 km) and its 336 km special around Zagora will be the only outing without dune-surfing. Stage 4 from Zagora to Merzouga (426 km) will culminate on the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, at the end of a 351 km timed section. The final stage of the season will not feature any road section. The 152 km special will revisit the dunes, at the foot of which the race will come to a close. A total of 1,470 km of specials awaits the competitors in two point-to-point stages (1 and 4) and three loop stages (2, 3 and 5).
David Castera, Director of the Rallye du Maroc:
“We are in for a very special edition of the Rallye du Maroc. In the aftermath of the disaster that hit it a few days ago, we will support the reconstruction of our host country through a series of initiatives launched in close consultation with the authorities. The original sports programme of the race remains in place. The Rallye du Maroc is cast in the same mould as its bigger counterpart, the Dakar, whose features and spirit it has always shared. Now as ever, Morocco is a vast arena for rally raids, with dirt tracks, sand, stones and dunes that open up possibilities in every register. It is also a sprawling desert riddled with navigational challenges. Not a single special will dip below 300 km. It is no exaggeration to say that the Rallye du Maroc is a miniature Dakar. The upcoming edition will stay true to this tradition, with an A to Z of what our sport has to offer. This is crystal clear to both the pros and the amateurs, which is why we already have 140 motorbikes and 100 cars on the start list. We also have a few surprises in store, such as Nani Roma’s first official outing with Ford in the car race and the reveal of a new Honda HRC in the motorbike competition.”
- >27 September: closing date for entries
- 9 October: opening of the service park at 2 pm > 10 and 11 October: private test
- Afternoon of 11 October and 12 October: administrative and technical scrutineering
- 13 October: prologue — Agadir (total: 119 km)
- 14 October: stage 1 — Agadir–Zagora (road section: 397 km / special: 324 km / total: 721 km)
- 15 October: stage 2 — Zagora–Zagora (road section: 100 km / special: 288 km / total: 388 km)
- 16 October: stage 3 — Zagora–Zagora (road section: 108 km / special: 336 km / total: 444 km)
- 17 October: stage 4 — Zagora–Merzouga (road section: 75 km / special: 351 km / total: 426 km)
- 18 October: stage 5 — Merzouga–Merzouga (road section: 0 km / special: 152 km / total: 152 km)
- Evening of 18 October: prize award ceremony