– South Racing Can-Ams fill every place inside top 10 in gruelling desert classic
-Pavel Lebedev pips Fernando Alvarez to FIA T3 success in North Africa
South Racing-built Can-Ams completely dominated the FIA T4 category at this year’s Rally of Morocco, round four of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, with the team’s machines filling every place inside the top 10.
The Monster Energy Can-Am Team crew of Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton claimed the category win on the last day in their Maverick XRS. Fellow Poles, Michal Goczal and Szymon Gospodarczyk, had controlled the pace for much of the event in their Energylandia Rally Team-backed Can-Am until an impact broke a rear shock absorber and cost them a potential win. Goczal eventually reached the finish in 12th.
Brazil’s Rodrigo de Oliveira Luppi teamed up with Maykel Justo and finished second in the FIA T4 category, while the Italian duo of Eugenio Amos and Paulo Ceci rounded off the podium for South Racing.
To put icing on the cake for South Racing, the Russian duo of Pavel Lebedev and Kirill Shubin won the FIA T3 section in a South Racing-built T3 Can-Am, the crew pipping the Spanish South Racing pairing of Fernando Alvarez and Antonio Garcia for the victory.
Back in the FIA T4 section, experienced Dutchman Kees Koolen and his co-driver Mirjam Pol were fourth and Lithuanian driver Rokas Baciuka teamed up with Spaniard Oriol Mena to win a stage and finish fifth. FIA series leader Austin Jones and his Brazilian navigator Gustavo Gugelmin were sixth in their Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick XRS.
Marek Goczal and Rafal Marton finished seventh in the second Energylandia Rally Team Can-Am and Portugal’s Lourenço Rosa and Spain’s Antonio Garcia were eighth. Chile’s Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach crossed the finish line in ninth and Lucas Del Rio and Marcello Scola rounded off the top 10. Russia’s Armen Puzian and Evgenii Zagorodniuk completed the South Racing line-up in 17th on the driver’s African debut.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: « This was a great race for the South Racing Can-Am Team with all vehicles that started the race at the finish again and showing that the Can-Am Maverick is the class of the T3 and T4 fields.
« It was a great result for Aron on his first event back in 2021 on his build-up to Dakar and impressive debut performances in the desert from Rodrigo and Rokas. Michal Goczal was definitely on the pace as well but, unfortunately, he broke a rear shock absorber after an impact on the last stage and that put him out of contention.
« Austin Jones came back well to claim valuable cross-country championship points after a mechanical failure yesterday. Great results also for Eugenio Amos and Kees Koolen. They are still in contention for what is becoming a really interesting FIA World Cup. In the T3s, Pavel Lebedev and Fernando Alvarez claimed the 1-2. It was also good to see Chile’s Lucas Del Rio and Hernan Garces performing well after a Covid-enforced hiatus. They are now able to race internationally again. Also, Armen Puzian did a solid race on his first African adventure. »
Action got underway with an 11.11km Qualifying Stage late on Friday afternoon and Michal and Marek Goczal topped the times in their South Racing-built Can-Ams running under the Energylandia Rally Team. Amos and Domzala were fourth and fifth, Luppi and Koolen were sixth and 10th but Garces and Jones were down in 13th and 14th.
The first of the desert selective sections on October 9th was split into two timed portions of 225.52km and 40.19km. Michal Goczal continued to set the pace but Jones stormed into contention and settled into second position, with the South Racing Can-Ams of Luppi, Baciuka, Domzala, Koolen and Amos filling third to seventh places.
« We had a good day after starting very far back because of the flat tyre on the Prologue, » said Jones. « We knew we had a lot of work to do and a lot of cars to overtake to get back to where we wanted to be. That’s what we did. The dunes were easy to make passes in, wide open with no rocks. P2, we are happy with that. »
Marek Goczal, Garces, Rosa and Del Rio were eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th of the 23 classified T4 drivers.
Action continued with a second desert stage of 333.93km that crossed the Erg Chebbi. Luppi pipped Marek Goczal to the stage win by just three seconds, with Michal Goczal and Jones a close third and fourth. It meant that Michal Goczal maintained the outright FIA T4 lead from Jones, Luppi, Marek Goczal and Amos. Domzala, Garces, Del Rio, Rosa and Baciuka trailed in their wake.
Jones said: « It was a good day but a long day. We started P2 today but had a little bit of trouble in the beginning getting up to pace. After the refuel, we began to push harder and finished P4, around 36 seconds behind the leader with the top four drivers in the same minute after four and a half hours of driving. »
Amos added: « It was a hard day. I woke up with a fever this morning but decided to keep on driving. There were some hard sections, some dunes but I was happy with fifth. »
Alvarez held third in the FIA T3 section behind Cristina Gutierrez and Santiago Navarro, with Lebedev in fourth.
The third day of desert action was again split into two by a neutralisation and featured a stage of 340.47km and liaisons of 211.35km and 75.54km. Domzala claimed the stage win by 3min 10sec from Amos, as Jones came home in third and reduced Michal Goczal’s outright lead to 3min 22sec.
« It was a good three days but the pace was insane, » said Jones. « It’s hard to keep up and try to control the race. The stones were crazy and it was hard not to get flat tyres. »
Domzala climbed to third with Luppi and Amos rounding off the top five. Koolen, Garces, Marek Goczal, Rosa and Del Rio filled the remaining places inside the top 10.
Del Rio said: « This is my second race outside Chile after Andalucia. It was a complicated stage, a lot of rocks, rocky roads and a few dunes. We had a flat tyre but it was a good stage for us. »
The penultimate desert selective looped through the Moroccan deserts for 367.43km. Baciuka snatched a maiden stage win, the Lithuanian beating leader Michal Goczal by 25 seconds. Although transmission issues for Jones meant that the Pole extended his overall lead to 6min 48sec, as Domzala, Luppi and Amos came home in third, fourth and fifth and Domzala inherited second place.
« Actually I didn’t expect to win a stage here in Morocco, » said Baciuka. « This is the first time I see the dunes. I come from Rallycross. Here it is really crazy, really close between the top three guys. You do 300km and you’re separated by 20 seconds. But we managed to get up there with them and we’re really happy. »
Amos admitted that it had been the hardest stage of his life. The Italian said: « We had a broken windscreen before the stage and then the door opened while we were racing. Then we broke the front differential and had two punctures. The track was destroyed completely. It was more for trial bikes than enduro. »
« Not a very good day for us, » said Jones, who slipped to sixth overall. « We had a mechanical failure at km80 that cost us about 30 minutes. We removed the broken part and ran in two-wheel drive for the rest of the race until we had 50km to go and we started throwing axles. It’s a bad feeling but you have to work on it. »
Action reached a conclusion with a shorter fifth selective section. Domzala took advantage of technical problems for Michal Goczal to snatch the stage win and a dramatic T4 victory. The Pole finished 6min 54sec ahead of Luppi with Amos rounding off the final step on the podium.
Support for the South Racing Can-Am Team came from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, Bell, Jjuan Brake Systems, Lazer and OMP.
« Busy weeks and months ahead for the team, » added Scott Abraham. « We move to Baja Portalegre where we are defending the FIA Bajas World Cup and that is closely followed, one week later, where the team will be entered in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with 14 Mavericks. Then we finish the year off in Ha’il in Saudi Arabia in the build up to Dakar. »
2021 Rally of Morocco – FIA T4 result:
1. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick XRS, 18hr 12min 12sec
2. Rodrigo de Oliveira Luppi (BRA)/Maykel Justo (BRA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 18hr 19min 06sec
3. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 18hr 26min 01sec
4. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Mirjam Pol (NLD) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 18hr 55min 15sec
5. Rokas Baciuka (LIT)/Oriol Mena (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick, 19hr 03min 08sec
6. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 04min 23sec
7. Marek Goczal (POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 10min 32sec
8. Lourenço Rosa (PRT)/Antonio Garcia (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 13min 07sec
9. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 14min 52sec
10. Lucas Del Rio (CHL)/Marcello Scola (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 37min 13sec…
12. Michal Goczal (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 51min 07sec…
18. Armen Puzian (RUS)/Evgenii Zagorodniuk (RUS) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 22hr 33min 36sec
2021 Rally of Morocco – FIA T3 result
1. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 20min 36sec
2. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS, 19hr 26min 35sec
3. José Luis Pena Campo (ESP)/Rafael Tornabell (ESP) Polaris RXR Pro XP, 20hr 40min 46sec…