Joan Barreda (RallyZone)

Sam Sunderland (KTM) was crowned FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion at the Atacama Rally in Chile one month ago.  Nevertheless, the Rally of Morocco is the traditional final round of the series and the last event before Dakar and, for that reason, it should be exciting with teams taking advantage of the last chance to compete against their rivals and fine-tune settings for their machines. 

All the official teams will be present in the Moroccan town of Fes: KTM, Husqvarna, Honda, Yamaha, Sherco, Hero and many private teams – with 62 competitors registered on two-wheels and seven on quads.

This is the second edition of the Rally of Morocco to be organised by David Castera, the new boss of the Dakar, and will features its fair share of challenges in a route of 2,500km including 1,700km of special stages and 770km of link sections. Around 60% of this will be on new tracks with specific courses for motorcycles, quads, cars and trucks. 

Starting from Fes, competitors will head south towards the town of Erfoud, where the remainder of the Rally of Morocco will be played out over loop stages around a bivouac where everyone will sleep in a tent!

The road book for the third and fourth stages will only be distributed in the morning 15 minutes before the departure of the first competitor. The same road book was available in colour in 2018 and has been improved still further this year after consultation with David Castera. 

In classic FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship style, stages six and seven will be run in a Marathon format. That means that riders will have no assistance and will not be permitted to change wheels and tyres.

This final round of the World Championship will be the last competition between the riders before they meet for the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. 

At the recent Atacama Rally, Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Pablo Quintanilla were riding again after missing months through injury and the latter won his “rally” superbly. Both his KTM rivals will want to make amends in Morocco, but they will also have to watch out for team-mate Sunderland, the new FIM World Cross-Country Rallies World Champion and Andrew Short (Husqvarna). 

The Honda factory team will also be present in full with Kevin Benavides, Ricky Brabec and Joan Barreda – who climbed on to the third step of the podium in Chile – in addition to ‘Nacho’ Cornejo and Aaron Mare.

The Juniors: Luciano Benavides (KTM) 100 points and Nacho Cornejo (Honda) 82 points still have their title to play and the third, Adam Tomiczek has 41 points. The Women’s Trophy is also open with Laia Sanz (KTM) leading with 49 points ahead of Byambasuren Bat-Undral 41 points and Anastasiya Nifontova 34 points.

The three Yamaha riders, Adrien Van Beveren, Xavier de Soultrait and Franco Caimi, will also be pushing hard and have the bit between their teeth in their quest for the podium. 

Paulo Gonçalves, Oriol Mena, CS Santosh and Vilarinho represent the Hero team, while Sherco TVS had intended to enter seven riders, but the three Indians are injured: Aravind Prabhakar fractured his tibia-fibula in India, Harite Noah fell in training in Morocco and fractured his collarbone, just like teammate Abdoul Wahid Tanveer, who fell on the Panafrica Rally. In addition, new rookie Rui Gonçalves made the switch from Motocross, but broke his elbow at home while training … Nevertheless, Michael Metge, Lorenzo Santolino and new Sherco TVS rider Johnny Aubert will be present.

In quad, Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) was crowned Winner of the 2019 World Cup in Chile, as was Sam Sunderland (KTM) but, on the Moroccan tracks, he will have to fight Alexandr Maksimov, Axel Dutrie… and especially the Chilean Ignacio Casale who is back in the spotlight!