Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthias Walkner powered over the dunes to claim the car and bike titles at the Rallye du Maroc. The six-stage race assembled plenty of offroad racing heavyweights as crews looked to fine-tune their operation ahead of next year’s Dakar Rally.
Qatar’s Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel knew that they would face stiff competition from some top class rivals in Morocco. The defending champions would have to keep their Toyota Hilux in front of the PEUGEOT 3008 DKRs of Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Carlos Sainz (ESP) to stand any chance of securing the win.
It was nine-time WRC winners Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena (MON) who took the fight to Al-Attiyah and with two stages remaining held the overall lead. Then a decisive display of desert driving on Stage 4 helped Al-Attiyah to leapfrog Loeb at the top of the rankings.
“This is the best possible preparation for the Dakar Rally. This is one of the toughest races you can do and it was so satisfying to be collecting those stage wins over the past week.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
It was also on Stage 4 that Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) encountered trouble on the course that ended their chances of a podium finish.
“We are very happy with this experience we gained. I would like to say thank you to the Peugeot Sport team for their hard work. We are eager to start the Dakar Rally in January and to drive the brand new Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi.” – Carlos Sainz
Elsewhere in the car race there was plenty of pre-Dakar encouragement for the MINI crews of Kuba Przygoński (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) and Bryce Menzies (USA)/Pete Mortensen (USA). Przygoński narrowly missed out on the podium while Menzies got plenty more miles under his belt as he continues to broaden his rally-raid experience.
Treacherous routes for the bikes on Stage 2 threw the entire contest wide open. Reigning Dakar champion Sam Sunderland (GBR) was forced to withdraw from the race due to water contaminating his fuel after his bike became submerged.
“We got to the river and I followed the roadbook to the crossing, but although I took it as carefully as I could the bike just disappeared from beneath me. I ended up drowning the engine and getting water in the fuel.” – Sam Sunderland
This left Sunderland’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Matthias Walkner (AUT) battling at the front of the race. Walkner was quick to remind everyone of his own Dakar pedigree as he sped away from the pack to claim the win.
“The new bike has given me a lot of confidence to push and take my riding into a new level. I’m happy with my performance here in Morocco and this is very important heading into the Dakar Rally.” – Matthias Walkner
It was an impressive return from injury for the third Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider in Morocco, Antoine Méo (FRA) who finished 4th overall. Meanwhile CS Santosh (IND) of the Hero MotoSports Team stayed clear of trouble to end the rally in 15th place.