South Racing Can-Am Team’s Joao Ferreira delivers sensational T4 class victory at Rally of Morocco

– Quintero and Zenz confirm W2RC T3 titles in South Racing-built Can-Am with second place
– Del Rio, Zille, Garces and rookie Lauda finish ninth, 11th, 12th and 13th in T3

The South Racing Can-Am Team earned first and second places in the FIA T4 category at the six-day Rally of Morocco, the final round of the 2023 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC), with Portugal’s João Ferreira claiming a stunning win.

Meanwhile, American racer Seth Quintero and German co-driver Dennis Zenz confirmed the W2RC T3 Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ titles in their South Racing-built Can-Am Maverick X3.

South Racing entered three cars in the T4 class. The outgoing FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion João Ferreira took a sideways step from the T3 category to team up with Filipe Palmeiro to drive a Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR in preparation for a W2RC programme in 2024. He won the Prologue and two stages on his way to a hard-earned T4 category win.

American racer Sara Price won the Road to Dakar race in the Sonora Rally and joined forces with the South Racing Can-Am Team for the first time with fellow countryman Jeremy Gray. Her pace increased markedly as the event headed from a start in Agadir and on to Zagora, the Erg Chebbi and through to a finish in Merzouga. Price won stages two and three and was Ferreira’s closest challenger for the victory.

The all-Spanish crew of Edouard Pons and Marc Serra overcame time penalties and delays and looked set for a top five finish until they hit further trouble and retired their T4 Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR on the final stage.

In additional to five Red Bull-supported machines, the South Racing Can-Am Team entered six Maverick X3s in the T3 category for lightweight prototype cross-country vehicles and five reached the finish. Lucas Del Rio of Chile and his Argentinean navigator Bruno Jacomy were the best-placed crew in ninth, with Argentinean team-mates David Zille and Sebastien Cesana fourth on the final stage and finishing 11th and the Chilean duo of Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach taking 12th.

Lukas Lauda teamed up with Germany’s Stefan Henken to drive a South Racing Can-Am for the first time on his biggest ever rally. The eldest son of three-time FIA F1 World Champion Niki Lauda revelled in his new challenge and reached the finish in a far from unlucky 13th place.

Lauda said: « My first time at Rally Morocco and my first time at big rally. We did one week testing before. I expected not much and tried to learn a lot. It was a fantastic experience. »

South Racing also ran a Maverick for Austrian racer Marcus Winkler – who was running under his nickname of Freddy Fast – and his Spanish navigator Alexander Toril for the first time. They finished 17th of the 37 T3 crews to start the race.

The Dutch pairing of Erik van Loon and Henrie Verschuuren set some encouraging times in their Can-Am and were well-placed in T3 before technical issues cost them time and they failed to complete two stages and retired after stage four.

South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham said: « A strong way to finish the season. It has been a long year starting with the Dakar in January. Great results for the team and new drivers in preparation for Dakar. Congratulations for João Ferreira on winning the T4 category on his first event with the team and strong performances from all members of the team on various stages. Now the focus shifts in a week’s time to the Baja Portalegre in Portugal. »

As it happened
Action began with a Prologue of 18.35km, near Agadir, and Zille was the best-placed of the South Racing Can-Ams in eighth, although four of the South Racing-built Red Bull cars were in the frame ahead of the Argentinean. Del Rio was classified in 14th of the FIA T3 runners and Garces, Lauda, and Fast were 22nd, 23rd and 25th. Van Loon lost valuable minutes and slipped to 37th.

In T4, Ferreira got his debut off to a perfect start with the fastest time and Price and Pons were third and fourth.

The real meat of the action began with a 311.10km selective section between Agadir and Zagora that included 10km of dunes in the Erg Chegaga and a long liaison section. In T3, Eryk Goczal added the stage win to his success on the Prologue, Zille and Del Rio were 13th and 19th, Garces was 22nd, Lauda was 25th and Van Loon came home in 31st. Ferreira slipped to third in T4, behind Enrico Gaspari and Juan Manuel Maña, while Price came home in fifth and Pons was 11th.

The first of the loop stages through the deserts around Zagora ran for 296km and Quintero snatched the overall T3 lead on a stage where Van Loon was the best-placed South Racing Can-Am Team driver in eighth. Del Rio, Lauda and Zille were 11th, 19th and 26th and Del Rio led the way in the overall rankings in 11th. Winkler, Zille, Lauda and Garces held 14th, 15th 19th and 21st overall and Van Loon moved up to 23rd.

Sara Price claimed her first ever W2RC stage win for the South Racing Can-Am Team in the T4 category, the American beating Sebastián Guayasamín by 1min 22sec. Pons and Ferreira came home in third and fourth and the result was sufficient for Ferreira to regain the lead after Gaspari retired with engine issues, with Price and Pons holding third and fifth.

Stage three looped through the deserts near Zagora for 333km and Price made it two wins in T4 in as many days. The American completed the stage 24 seconds ahead of Ferreira to give the South Racing Can-Am Team a 1-2 finish. Pons was fifth after a day where Ferreira retained his overall lead.

The penultimate leg headed from Zagora to Merzouga and included a competitive section of 342.96km and a tricky stretch through sand dunes near the finish. Del Rio climbed to eighth overall and Zille and Garces held 11th and 12th but Van Loon was forced to retire at the end of the day after failing to complete two of the event’s four stages thus far.

In T4, Pons incurred a 20-minute penalty for finishing the stage with two spare wheels missing on his Can-Am on a day where Ferreira managed to pip Price to the win by just 21 seconds and take an 11min 49sec cushion into the last day.

The final stage looped through the dunes around Merzouga and ran for 152.49km. Guthrie was quickest in T3 but Quintero held on to seal the title and finish second behind Marek Goczal. Ferreira was untroubled on his way to the T4 stage win and class success with Price finishing as runner-up on her debut with the team but Pons failing to make the finish.

The South Racing Can-Am Team receives valuable support for the race programme from BRP, Rotax, Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, J.Juan Brake Systems, Oakley and Sparco.

Rally of Morocco – FIA T3 standings:
1. Marek Goczal (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3, 16hr 22min 12sec
2. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick X3, 16hr 37min 19sec
3. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick X3, 16hr 43min 01sec
4. Ignacio Casale (CHL)/Alvaro Leon (CHL) Yamaha T3, 17hr 02min 20sec*
5. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) G Rally Team OT3, 17hr 15min 32sec
6. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Taurus T3 Max, 17hr 18min 48sec
7. Paul Spierings (NLD)/Jan Pieter Van Der Stelt (NLD) Can-Am Factory T3, 17hr 54min 46sec*
8. Romain Locmane (FRA)/Charlie Herbst (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS, 18hr 53min 52sec*
9. Lucas Del Rio (CHL)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 18hr 55min 39sec*
10. Oscar Ral Verdu (ESP)/Xavi Blanco Garcia (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 18hr 59min 16sec*
11. David Zille (ARG)/Sebastien Cesana (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 19hr 53min 16sec
12. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 20hr 33min 47sec*
13. Lukas Lauda (AUT)/Stefan Henken (DEU) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 21hr 18min 18sec*
14. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Adrien Metge (FRA) MMP Rally-Raid T3, 21hr 24min 02sec*
15. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3, 21hr 26min 11sec*
17. Marcus Winkler (AUT)/Alexander Toril (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 35hr 16min 12sec*
Erik van Loon (NLD)/Henrie Verschuuren (NLD) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, DNF
* denotes not registered for the W2RC

Rally leaders
Prologue-SS1 Eryk Goczal
SS2-SS3 Seth Quintero
SS4-SS5 Marek Goczal

Stage winners
Prologue Eryk Goczal
SS1 Eryk Goczal
SS2 Mitch Guthrie
SS3 Francisco Lopez
SS4 Michal Goczal
SS5 Mitch Guthrie

Rally of Morocco – FIA T4 standings:
1. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 18hr 26min 24sec
2. Sara Price (USA)/Jeremy Gray (USA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 19hr 20min 45sec*
3. Juan Manuel Mãna (ESP)/Giovanna di Blasi (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 20hr 11min 35sec*
4. Victor Etienne (FRA)/Valentin Sarreaud (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 21hr 23min 54sec*
5. William Grarre (FRA)/Julien Vincent (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 21hr 50min 39sec*
6. Jeremie Renou (FRA)/Nicolas Larroquet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 23hr 03min 19sec*
7. Sebastien Caille (FRA)/Max Delfino (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 23hr 45min 04sec*
8. Pascal Henon (FRA)/Nicolas Charlier (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 24hr 29min 09sec
*Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Marc Serra (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR DNF

Select others
10. Sebastian Guayasamin (ECU)/Fernando Matias (ARG) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 36hr 13min 35sec
13. Shinsuke Umeda (JPN)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport, 44hr 14min 27sec
* denotes not registered for the W2RC

Rally leaders
Prologue João Ferreira
SS1 Enrico Gaspari
SS2-SS5 João Ferreira

Stage winners
Prologue João Ferreira
SS1 Enrico Gaspari
SS2 Sara Price
SS3 Sara Price
SS4 João Ferreira
SS5 João Ferreira

Neil Perkins,