|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.
|Rallye du Maroc 2017 Final Results
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota 10:39’34
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 10:03’49
Nasser Al-Attiyah #300: “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. The support we had from our team here was really fantastic and helped us secure the win. We’ve now won this race four times in a row and we’re going to bring this great feeling to South America for the next Dakar.”
Sébastien Loeb #312: “On the whole, the event went fine. On the final day we had a double puncture after the first timed section and ended the stage slowly, but that didn’t really change anything in the end. We tried to push hard and catch Nasser (Al-Attiyah) but I was slowed down by the dust from the cars in front, so there was nothing more we could do. Second is not bad, but I am very motivated to take my first overall victory in cross-country. We got some good experience here and learned a lot of things, and we’ve seen that we’re going to be up against some tough competition on the Dakar.”
Carlos Sainz #310: “The last stage wasn’t bad. The only problem was that we started from behind in the dust, because of our issues yesterday. Afterwards it was only a positive experience being here. We learned a lot of things and it was a good preparation for the Dakar. With Lucas (Cruz), 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 3008DKR Maxi.”
Matthias Walkner #6: “It’s been a long event and I’m really happy that I won it. During the last few days we were faced with overflowing rivers, long stages with tricky navigation and a series of other things that could have completely changed the outcome of the event. This is my first victory in the championship and it feels good.”
Antoine Méo #8: “I think I’ve made a good comeback to rally racing and I’m happy about that. All the members of our team have done an incredible job here in Morocco and this gives me extra motivation to continue working hard. The new bike is a big improvement and a pleasure to race. Our eyes are set now on the big challenge – the Dakar Rally. There’s still a long way to go and I want to be ready for the race in January.”
Sam Sunderland #2: “Up to around 45km everything was great on Stage 2, the bike felt good and I was making good time. 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. My focus now has to be the Dakar at the beginning of next year, I’ll work on my navigation and continue testing of the new bike and hopefully we can come back stronger in January.”