The World Rally-Raid Championship convoy has arrived at Rallye du Maroc for the fifth and final round of the global cross-country series. There are titles on the line, but the daunting dunes of Agadir and Merzouga still stand in the way. The trip to Morocco also represents one last tune up before next January’s 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. Expect the racing to be red hot right out of the gate as 1,451km spread over five desert special stages await following an opening day prologue on Friday, October 13.
In the T1 car contest it’s Nasser Al-Attiyah
who is just a whisker away from making it back-to-back W2RC drivers’ titles. The Qatari will be racing his Toyota Hilux GR DKR Hilux T1+. It’s been an ultra-impressive two years for Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel
’s with Toyota Gazoo Racing featuring two Dakar titles.
“If we manage to win, I’ll have a second W2RC title to enjoy. But the race is long and usually quite tough, and we must respect the desert.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
will return to W2RC action in his Prodrive Hunter at Rallye du Maroc alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin
. Despite missing the last two rounds of the championship there is still a chance that Loeb can finish the season in second place overall in the T1 drivers’ rankings.
“Morocco is a very good rally with tracks, dunes and a bit of everything so it will be interesting once more.” – Sébastien Loeb
Ensuring Al-Attiyah and Loeb will have to fight for position during all six days in Morocco will be the trio of Team Audi Sport crews. Carlos Sainz
, Stéphane Peterhansel
and Mattias Ekström
are bringing three Audi RS Q E-Trons to Rallye du Maroc. Intrigue will be high in the bivouac to see what improvements have been made together with the adjustments the FIA implemented on the ‘Balance of Technologies’ to this innovative vehicle since we last saw it race at the 2023 Dakar Rally.
“This type of racing puts everyone at the limit. The car is at the limit, the mechanics, the team and the drivers. Everything is at the limit.” – Carlos Sainz
“The time has come for us to try our luck in the benchmark category of rally-raids.” – Guillaume de Mevius
The hottest ticket in town at Rallye du Maroc will no doubt be the charge for glory in the T3 class. Three Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich drivers hold the Top 3 places and are currently separated by just nine points. It really is all to play for in this category!
Mitch Guthrie Jr.
and co-driver Kellon Walch
have the momentum of wins at the last two championship rounds behind them as they lead the T3 rankings on 174 points on arrival in Morocco. In second place are 2023 Dakar winners Austin ‘AJ’ Jones
and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin
who are just three points off the summit and capable of shaking things up in North Africa. Then there’s Seth Quintero
and co-driver Dennis Zenz
six points back from Jones. 21-year-old Quintero has made a habit of making the impossible possible during his fledgling rally-raid career so don’t bet against more fireworks in Morocco!
Despite showing terrific speed at the 2023 Dakar and winning five stages along the way, it was reliability issues on Guthrie Jr.’s T3-M by MCE5 that cost him his shot at the overall podium. Since then Guthrie Jr. has steered his vehicle to two rally victories while the Can-Ams of Jones and Quintero have suffered reliability issues of their own. It remains to be seen who will come out on top in Morocco?
“It’s been a good year with a few ups and downs for sure. Now we go into the rally in Morocco with the championship lead and hopefully we can keep it together.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
While the three American drivers battle it out for the 2023 W2RC T3 overall title, there are plenty of other names in the mix for the win at Rallye du Maroc. The three crews representing the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team in the coming week will be Cristina Gutiérrez
, Chaleco López
/Diego Ortega Gil
and Rokas Baciuška
. Gutiérrez and López already have plenty of rally wins on their CVs while Baciuška is making his T3 debut after already securing this year’s W2RC T4 title. 23-year-old Baciuška is definitely one to watch in Morocco!
“My plan for now until the Dakar is to make lots of kilometres in the T3 and to maintain my physical fitness. When it comes time to race you need to go hard or go home!” – Rokas Baciuška
We’ll also be keeping a close eye on the progress of Dania Akeel
in her Wevers Sport prepped machine alongside co-driver Taye Perry
as final preparations are made for another drive at the Dakar in her native Saudi Arabia.
“I’m delighted to take up the opportunity to drive the Wevers Sport car in the Rallye du Maroc. It’s a great chance to get to know the car as well as the team, especially with the Dakar Rally in mind.“ – Dania Akeel
Over on two wheels it’s set to be a shootout between current W2RC bike category leader Luciano Benavides and second place Toby Price
. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Price current trails by nine points so the two-time Dakar winner will have to be on top form to overcome the deficit in Morocco.
“It’s been a long journey with KTM and one that I think it’s fair to say has brought both sides heaps of success along the way.” – Toby Price
Price will be able to call on the assistance of fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing biker Matthias Walkner
who was back in action at last month’s Desafío Ruta 40.
Also aiming to go on the attack at Rallye du Maroc is last season’s W2RC bike champ Sam Sunderland
. The Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing rider is looking to get back up to speed after an injury hit season.
Notable bike race absentees due to injury will be reigning Dakar champ Kevin Benavides
of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and also GasGas biker Daniel Sanders
The action at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc gets started with a prologue stage on Friday, October 13. Then come five special stages in the desert between Agadir and Merzouga covering close to 1,500km before the chequered flag falls on Wednesday, October 18. Then it’s party time to celebrate all of this season’s World Rally-Raid Championship winners.
World Rally-Raid Championship: Rankings
1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 189 points
2. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 138
3. J. YACOPINI (ARG) TOYOTA 109
4. S. LOEB (FRA) PRODRIVE 101
5. S. HALPERN (ARG) MINI 89
1. M. GUTHRIE JR. (USA) MCE5 174 points
2. A. JONES (USA) CAN-AM 171
3. S. QUINTERO (USA) CAN-AM 165
4. C. GUTIERREZ (ESP) CAN-AM 110
5. F. LOPEZ (CHI) CAN-AM 104
1. R. BACIUSKA (LTU) CAN-AM 189 points
2. S. UMEDA (JPN) POLARIS 129
3. E. GOCZAL (POL) CAN-AM 86
4. P. NAVARRO (ESP) CAN-AM 73
5. M.GOCZAL (POL) CAN-AM 67
1. L. BENAVIDES (ARG) HUSQVARNA 80 points
2. T. PRICE (AUS) KTM 71
3. A. VAN BEVEREN (FRA) HONDA 66
4. R. BRANCH (BWA) HERO 45
5. K. BENAVIDES (ARG) KTM 43