There is nothing like a very
tough rally that pushes the limits of man and machine to the extreme. The Dakar
Rally held in South America is one of them, the other being the Afriquia
Merzouga Rally held in Morocco. The latter is, of course, considered as a walk
in the park compared to the Dakar Rally. It is also referred to as a “Mini
The five-day Merzouga Rally is
a technical rally with many dune sections, says its race founder Edo Mossi.
"Amateurs will be thrown into the deep end right away!" he said
before the race. A total of 123 competitors —80 bikers, 12 quad riders and 31
side-by-side buggies— took part in this year's edition of the Afriquia Merzouga
Rally. The Afriquia Merzouga Rally, in fact, offers an ideal training ground
for the teams to kick start the preparations for the mighty Dakar.
Two home grown Indian motorcycle
manufacturing companies TVS Motor Company and Hero MotoCorp have been
participating in the Dakar and Merzouga for the last few years at a stretch.
Their machines too have been performing mighty well in the tough conditions.
The 9th edition of
the Afriquia Merzouga Rally in 2018 saw Sherco TVS and TVS MotoSports participate
with four and two riders respectively. While Joan Pedrero of Sherco TVS Factory
Rally Team finished in top 10, his teammate Martin Duplessis ended at 11th
position overall after five stages. For Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team, Joan
Pedrero finished 7th, followed by Martin Diego Duplessis at P11, Vanni
Cominotto at P21 and Lorenzo Santolino at P31.
Commenting on his performance,
Joan Pedrero, Racer, Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team says, “The Merzouga Rally is
tough and very competitive but I am thrilled to have finished in the top 10. It
has been a great learning ground and I hope to use these learnings, going
As for Hero MotoSports Team
Rally, the motorsport division of Hero MotoCorp, both their riders registered a
top 20 finish at rally. Oriol Mena finished at 15th and Indian driver C S
Santosh finished at the 19th place.
C S Santosh said, “It was our
first international rally after the Dakar. I am really glad to have finished
the Merzouga, as I was a little worried after the crash I had at the Desert
Storm (Maruti Suzuki rally held in North India). Overall I think I made fewer
mistakes this year and improved a lot in my speed and navigation, this is been
a good learning experience for me. The bike and the team have been fantastic
and helped me get the bike home every day. Now I will look to build upon this
experience for the next races to come.”
Meanwhile, after five days of
racing in the desert of southern Morocco, Spaniard Joan Barreda (Honda) won two
stages and the general classification. Frenchman Axel Dutrie (quads) and
Brazilian Bruno Varela (S×S) also won the race outright. For the field as a
whole, including many amateurs, the number 1 goal was gaining more experience
in ultra-tough stages as a further step towards their dream of taking part in
the Dakar, the biggest rally raid in the world.
AFTER FIVE STAGES
Pos. No. Rider Team
1 10 BARREDA
BORT JOAN HONDA
2 2 BENAVIDES
3 7 QUINTANILLA
7 4 PEDRERO GARCIA JUAN SHERCO TVS
11 18 DUPLESSIS DIEGO MARTIN SHERCO TVS
15 17 MENA ORIOL HERO
19 29 CS SANTOSH HERO
21 31 COMINOTTO VANNI SHERCO TVS
31 36 SANTOLINO LORENZO SHERCO TVS
A quick look
at the five stages
After an intense morning
dominated by the technical scrutineering, the field of the Afriquia Merzouga
Rally hit the tracks for the first time for the free practice session and the
prologue on Sunday April 15, 2018. The competitors spent the morning going
through technical and administrative scrutineering and they used the free
practice session and the prologue to rev up their engines. A total of 123
competitors —80 bikers, 12 quad riders and 31 side-by-side buggies— took part
in the ninth edition.
The cool temperatures of
Sunday morning soon gave way to the spring heat at the Toumbouctou Hotel, where
the Afriquia Merzouga Rally has set up its bivouac. After their first footsteps
on the sand, the competitors spent the morning going through administrative and
technical scrutineering, a precondition to taking part in the race.
Stage 1 which started on April
16, 2018 saw the racers battle across two loops of 110.7 kilometers and 96.01
kilometers respectively. Stage 1
comprised of just over 200 kms of two loops. The first part of the stage tested
the riders with relatively complicated navigation leading onto the second loop
that offered dunes, sand and water zones.
Stage 2 on Tuesday April 17
consisted of 175 kms in the region of Erg Chhabbi with the difficulty levels
being tuned up a notch. The stage was fast but at the same time required
physical toughness with tougher navigation as well. Stage 3 of the rally, touted
to be the highlight stage of the Rally, saw the racers battle dunes of Rissani
erg, Chebbi erg along with sand in the Fezou region and Ouzina erg before
finishing at the campsite. Stage 4, the
second marathon stage, saw the riders race through dunes before reaching the
Errachidia plateau. Featuring a
233-kilometer special in a total of 372 kilometresrs, the stage once again saw the
racers get no help from the service crew. Competitors in the Afriquia Merzouga
Rally faced a 241.1 km course with dunes as far as the eye can see today. In
the evening of the stage, held on April 19, the Race Direction rectified the
results following the decision to stop the stage at km 224, instead of the
original 241,10 km. The fifth stage was the last and the shortest stage of the
rally with only 48 km to cover, which they further reduced to 40 km due to some
last minute changes.
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