September 29, 2022
The World Rally Championship (W2RC) returns to life this weekend with the return of the Rallye du Maroc. The elite squad Red Bull Desert Wings is heading to North Africa with the goal of dominating the dunes and collecting valuable championship points. To succeed, desert raiders must cover more than 1,500 kilometers on the clock over a mixture of sandy and rocky terrain.
Leading the T1 car class ahead of the third and penultimate event of the W2RC is off-road legend Sebastian Loeb (FRA). Together with co-driver Fabian Lurkin (BEL) on his Prodrive Hunter BRX, Loeb will be looking to increase his overall lead in the general classification in Morocco.
“At the moment we are leading but we know Nasser will be fast in Morocco and the gap is very small.” – Sebastian Loeb
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) is just one point behind Loeb in the T1 W2RC rankings. The reigning Dakar Rally champion will join co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) in the latest iteration of their Toyota Hilux for the mission in Morocco. Needless to say, Al-Attiyah will be doing everything they can to overtake Loeb in the championship standings.
“The car is very good and we have had great results all year. I hope to add to these results the victory in Morocco.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Among the riders trying to fend off Loeb and Al-Attiyah is Kuba Przygonski (POL), who currently sits fourth on the T1 W2RC leaderboard. Przygonski will be racing alongside co-driver Armand Manleon (Spain) in the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, aiming for an overall podium finish.
Also in the T1 class, the focus will be on the three Audi RS Q e-tron Evo 2 cars entered in the rally. Audi Sport Racing crews Carlos Sainz (SP)/Lucas Cruz (SP) and Mathias Ekström (Sweden)/Emil Bergqvist (Sweden) will join Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winners Stephane Peterhansel (FRA)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) on the start line in Agadir .
“Basically, this rally remains the perfect dress rehearsal for the Dakar. Dunes, sandy trails, small mountains with rocky soil, as well as fast tracks on hard ground – that’s exactly the variety we will face next January.” – Stefan Peterhansel
The bike class of the first W2RC has so far been dominated by the winning spirit of Sam Sunderland (Great Britain). The GasGas rider backed up his victory at the 2022 Dakar with victory at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge earlier this year to top the overall standings.
“We are going into this rally after a solid week of testing here in Morocco. It was great to get back on the bike and get used to desert speeds again.” – Sam Sunderland
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammates Toby Price (Australia) and Kevin Benavides (Argentina) want to compete in Sunderland in Morocco. The duo have three Dakar wins to their name and are both looking to get back on top form ahead of another trip to Saudi Arabia next January.
“The aim is to get a solid result here and then move on to Andalusia, all the while staying in good shape for Dakar in January.” – Toby Price
GasGas’ Daniel Sanders (Australia) and KTM’s Mathias Walkner (Australia) will not be competing in the North African bike race. Both riders are focused on recovering from their injuries.
Moving on to the T3 light vehicle class, we expect many more fireworks in the fight for the top spot in the championship. Chaleka Lopez (CHL) leads the category after winning the Dakar and Abu Dhabi this year in his Can-Am alongside Juan Pablo Latracha (CHL).
“This is a very important rally and the results will be very important in determining the World Rally Championship.” – Chaleka Lopez
Cristina Gutierrez (Spain) from the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team took second place after Lopez in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Gutierrez now comes to Morocco with his OT3 and co-driver Pablo Moreno (Spain) to take his first win of the season and overtake Lopez in the general classification.
“It will be a very competitive race and it will surely be one of the best races of the year. I can’t wait to get started!” – Cristina Gutierrez
One spot behind Gutierrez on the leaderboard is Seth Quintero (USA), who also makes his OT3 return this week with co-driver Dennis Zenz (GERMATIA). Rounding out the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team’s full presence in Morocco will be the crews of Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA)/Ola Fleunet (Norway) and Guillaume de Mevijus (BEL)/Francois Casale (FRA).
“This is a very important race for the whole team. We are focused on preparing as well as possible for Dakar, which is only four months away.” – Guillaume de Mevius
Rallye du Maroc 2022 begins with a prologue in the port city of Agadir on Saturday, October 1. This is followed by 1,500 kilometers of time trials spread over five stages before the rally concludes on Thursday 6 October in Agadir.
World Rally Championship points
T1 CAPITAL – TOP 3
1. S. LOEB PRODRIVE 112
2. N. AL-ATIA TOYOTA 111
3. Y. AL RAJHI TOYOTA 71
T3 STALIZATION – TOP 3
1. F. LOPEZ CAN-AM 141
2. K. GUTIEREZ OT3 116
3. S. KINTER OT3 97
BIKE SCORE – TOP-3
1. S. SUNDERLAND GASGAS 63
2. P. QUINTANILLA HONDA 46
3. M. WALKNER KTM 35