Rally Du Maroc, the last race in the FIM World Rally Championship, also considered as the « mini – Dakar » by many, was off to a grand start in the beautiful city of Fes, in Morocco today with the prologue stage. The rally will offer the final opportunity to the competitors to fine tune their preparations and calibrate their bikes for the upcoming Dakar Rally. Being conducted from 3rd to 9th October, Rally Du Maroc will cover over 2500 kms, in 5 stages over the next 5 days of competitive racing.
Hero MotoSports Team Rally took the starting line of the prologue today, represented by its 3 riders – Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues and C S Santosh, who will be riding together for the first time, in a competitive rally set up. Unfortunately for the team, their 4th rider, Oriol Mena was forced to sit out of the race due to a shoulder injury suffered while training right here in Morocco, a couple of days back.
The short 7.5 km prologue stage of today, took place in the tricky and slippery mountains of Fes, with Paulo, JRod and Santosh finishing in the 14th, 22nd and 33rd place respectively, to lock in their starting orders for the first big stage of the rally scheduled for tomorrow.
The first big stage of the rally tomorrow, originally designed to take the competitors for a run of almost 500 kms, including the 330 kms of specials, has been truncated to run only for the 2nd part of the stage due to some unforeseen obstructions on the route, and now will cover roughly about 226 kms.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager and Head of Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « We are now in the last leg of our Road to Dakar and participating here in Rally Du Maroc, our last competitive race before the Dakar. This is a highly competitive race as all the factory teams participate here, so it gives a nice flavour of a mini-Dakar to the riders and good preparations. Our goal is to use this opportunity to make the final adjustments in our bike and rider preparations and to get them home safely after each stage. Any unnecessary risk this close to the Dakar, will seriously impact our Dakar chances and that’s what we have to keep in mind. »
Paulo Goncalves, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « We started the Rally Du Maroc today with a short Prologue stage. It was short but quite a tricky stage with really slippery terrain in the mountains and lot of ravines. I didn’t have a nice feeling tackling it but it’s just the start and we have 5 long days in front of us so I will try to do my best, taking a day at a time. »
Joaquim Rodrigues, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « I didn’t have a great start today, made a couple of mistakes and lost some time but it was just the prologue and we have the full rally ahead of us. The bike is riding good and we are ready for tomorrow. »
C S Santosh, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, « I had some nerves going into the prologue today which was quite short and slippery. I made a mistake in the beginning but then I caught the rider in front, only to ride behind him in the dust, losing some time. It’s a long rally and I am excited to take on the stage 1 tomorrow so let’s see how that goes. »
Results of the Prologue Stage
1. Matthias Walkner, RedBull KTM Factory Racing, 06m 27s
2. Kevin Benavides, Monster Energy Honda Team, +02s
3. Sam Sunderland, RedBull KTM Factory Racing, +04s…
14. Paulo Goncalves, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +18s…
22. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +28s…
33. C S Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +58s…