A Red Bull Desert Wings squad including defending and former Dakar Rally champions are tuning up their engines at the Rallye du Maroc this week. The five-stage offroad rally is a traditional stop for Dakar hopefuls looking to test their machines in competitive surroundings before heading to Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina early next year.
Rallye du Maroc gets underway today with 240 kilometres of a total racing distance close to 2,000 kilometres setting off along the Atlantic coastline at Agadir. With rally raid elements such as dunes, open desert and twisty mountain tracks all scheduled between now and Friday we’re expecting to see Dakar heavyweights laying down strong markers ahead of January’s 13-stage epic in South America.
Nasser Al-Attiyah arrives in Morocco fresh from securing his 12th Middle-East Rally Championship as well as a successful defence of the Cross-Country Rally World Cup this year. The Qatari speedster alongside his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel has picked up race wins in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, the UAE, Italy, Spain and Poland this season and is aiming to steer his Toyota Hilux to a third consecutive Rallye du Maroc win.
Out to stop Nasser getting his hands on yet another win is the Team Peugeot Total duo of Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres. Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz are the all-Spanish pair at the controls of the fearsome Peugeot 3008 DKR as the offroad machine gets its first competitive outing. Meanwhile, Frenchmen Despres and co-driver David Castera take charge of the Peugeot 2008 DKR that won this year’s Dakar under the guidance of their countrymen Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret.
The battle is no less intense in the bike category with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team bringing a trio of riders to northern Africa with realistic ambitions of securing the win. 10 months ago it was Toby Price who rode KTM’s 15th consecutive Dakar win and the Australian is many people’s tip to defend his title. A solid ride in Morocco will only see that opinion strengthen.
Given KTM’s rally raid domination it’s fair to say that Price’s most likely challengers for wins in Morocco and at the Dakar will come from within his own team. Austrian Matthias Walkner and Britain’s Sam Sunderland have both worked hard to put recent injuries behind them and are targeting strong results at this five-stage race.
We’ll also be keeping an eye on the progress of Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues, India’s CS Santosh and Mexico’s Iván Ramirez as this trio of bikers look to upset the odds at this ultra-challenging contest.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Rallye du Maroc is really very important for us because we have arrived here early to do some testing and now we get to race competitively as well. We are doing all we can to be ready for the Dakar next year so all this time we have in Morocco is a big thing for us. We are joined here by all the big manufacturers who are preparing for the Dakar so by the end of this week we’ll have a good idea of where we stand. We have won here the last two years so that gives us confidence that we can go out to achieve a great result that will set us up for the big race next year.