October 18, 2023
There was drama on the dunes right up until the last kilometre of the 2023 Rallye du Maroc. The fifth and final race of the World Rally-Raid Championship saw winners crowned across the categories as an exhausting season of racing finally came to an end. Before everybody’s attention turns to the 2024 Dakar Rally next January let’s celebrate the latest pack of W2RC winners…
Before the finish line was crossed in Merzouga it was already confirmed that Nasser Al-Attiyah
was the 2023 FIA W2RC car class driver’s champion. Race wins in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Argentina earlier in the season meant that Al-Attiyah needed just a handful of points in Morocco to make it back-to-back championships.
“I’m so happy to win the World Rally-Raid Championship again. We were determined to defend our title this year.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel
have enjoyed a remarkable couple of years in their Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ machine. Not only have the 2022 and 2023 W2RC titles been won, but the pair have also delivered victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing at the last two editions of the Dakar.
For much of the year it was Sébastien Loeb
and co-driver Fabian Lurquin
in their BRX Prodrive Hunter who were Al-Attiyah and Baumel’s closest competitions. Loeb was back behind the wheel in Morocco as he got in some valuable preparation for the Dakar.
“We hadn’t raced the car since April in Mexico so it was important for us to get the feeling back before the next Dakar.” – Sébastien Loeb
Also getting themselves up to speed ahead of the Dakar’s next trip to Saudi Arabia were the Team Audi Sport crews of Carlos Sainz
, Stéphane Peterhansel
and Mattias Ekström
. Stage wins for both Peterhansel and Ekström proved that the pace and power of the Audi RS Q E-Tron should not be underestimated.
There were also plenty of lessons learned in the desert by T1 rookie Guillaume de Mevius
and co-driver François Cazalet
After making the step up from T3 this duo successfully brought their Hilux across the finish line in Morocco in 12th place overall.
The battle for top spot in the T3 class has had us on the edge of our seats all season so it was no surprise that the contest came down to the final stage of the final rally season. Standing victorious on the finish line in Merzouga was 21-year-old Seth Quintero
, second place at Rallye du Maroc was enough to bag him his first-ever W2RC title. Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz
celebrated on the roof of their Can-Am when told about their championship victory.
“This championship feels like a long time coming, we’ve been on the cusp of it in previous years. Even this year we had so many ups and downs along the way and we came into this last round third overall. We knew we just had to go for it and that’s what we did!” – Seth Quintero
Quintero’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich drivers still had the reward of Top 3 finishes in the W2RC after successful seasons. Mitch Guthrie Jr.
and co-driver Kellon Walch
finished the championship in second overall following wins in their MCE-5 machine in Mexico and Argentina. Meanwhile, Dakar winners Austin ‘AJ’ Jones
and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin
took third spot overall in this year’s W2RC T3 contest.
“We’ve had our ups and downs at this rally and we’re happy to finish with a stage win on the final day. It was a tight battle all the way for the championship.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Elsewhere in the T3 race there was a third place finish at Rallye du Maroc for Cristina Gutiérrez
and co-driver Pablo Moreno
“To finish the championship with a strong result is good for us, especially with the Dakar coming next.” – Cristina Gutiérrez
Gutiérrez was joined in the desert by Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team-mates Chaleco López
/Diego Ortega Gil
and Rokas Baciuška
“We came to Morocco to get to know our T3 car better before Dakar and this was achieved. I had already become T4 champion earlier in the season and now we can party with the whole team.” – Rokas Baciuška
There was a sixth place overall finish in Morocco for Dania Akeel
and co-driver Sébastien Delaunay
as they adjust to life inside their Wevers Sport prepared Taurus T3 Max.
“We had a lot of time in the dunes getting to know the car a bit better. This was a great race and really good preparation for Dakar.” – Dania Akeel
In the bike race there were bittersweet emotions for Toby Price
at the finish line of Rallye du Maroc. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing biker suffered a crash before the start of the rally in Morocco, but despite this still managed to win the rally in North Africa. This win is up there with Price’s previous remarkable achievements such as winning the Dakar with a broken bone in his hand. However, the result wasn’t enough to put Price on top in the W2RC rankings and he finished second in the FIM championship behind Luciano Benavides.
“We gave everything we could at this race, it’s great to get the win but it didn’t quite pan out for us to get the championship. It’s a tough one to swallow but we’ll do what we can to put things right at the Dakar.” – Toby Price
Price’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Matthias Walkner
exited the rally on Stage 3 due to a crash. Sam Sunderland
of Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing withdrew from the rally following a brave effort to complete Stage 1 while hurt.
There’s now little more than two months to go until the 2024 Dakar Rally as the world’s best off-roaders look to get into gear for success in Saudi Arabia. Physical fitness as well as last-minute tweaks to the machine will be the focus between now and the Dakar’s prologue stage in Al Ula on January 5.
Rallye du Maroc: Final results – Top 3
1. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 14:49:09
2. D. KROTOV (KGZ) TOYOTA +34:17
3. N. ROMA (ESP) FORD +43:03
1. M. GOCZAL (POL) TAURUS 16:22:12
2. S. QUINTERO (USA) CAN-AM +15:07
3. C. GUTIERREZ (ESP) CAN-AM +20:49
1. T. PRICE (AUS) KTM 15:56:43
2. L. BENAVIDES (ARG) HUSQVARNA +03:00
3. P. QUINTANILLA (CHL) HONDA +03:12
W2RC Final Top 3
1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 205 points
2. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 181
3. J. YACOPINI (ARG) TOYOTA 132
1. S. QUINTERO (USA) CAN-AM 201 points
2. M. GUTHRIE JR. (USA) WEVERS 196
3. A. JONES (USA) CAN-AM 190
1. L. BENAVIDES (ARG) HUSQVARNA 100
2. T. PRICE (AUS) KTM 96
3. A. VAN BEVEREN (FRA) HONDA 76