MOROCCO DESERT CHALLENGE 2017: A NEW CLASSIC
Within a few days, the first edition of the Morocco Desert Challenge, formerly known as the Libya Rally, will be starting in Agadir. With nearly 500 participants from 22 countries and seven spectacular stages, this rally which was born on Belgian soil, has become one of the world’s largest after Le Dakar and Silk Way. The official participant list will only be revealed at the press conference on April 14th in Agadir, but already we can come up with some impressive figures : nearly twenty race trucks and about eighty 4x4s, buggies & SVV will appear at the start. A new record!
A spectacular route & 0 KM liaison
No laps around Mhamid, no touristic tour Zagora-Ouarzazate-Merzouga, but a real cross-country, literally. The Morocco Desert Challenge goes from “coast to coast”: from the virgin beach of Plage Blanche on the Atlantic Ocean to the warm waters of the Mediterranean. The rally traverses as such a maximum part of the beautiful Morocco, all along the Algerian border and far away from the tourist zones. Sleeping is not done in hotels, but in beautiful desert bivouacs.
What makes this rally really unique is the 0 (ZERO) km liaison, often the “necessary evil” of a rally/raid. Between the start of the first stage and the finish of the last, there is literally no kilometre liaison. Each stage starts and finishes in a bivouac. Race director Jean-Claude Kaket: “We wanted to get away with the frustrations everyone has about liaisons . It was not easy, but nothing is impossible so after three exploration trips we ended up with a perfect succession of beautiful and varied off-road tracks. 0 km liaison will become the new standard; a new trend that few have done before but many will copy.
Strong international group of participants
Traditionally, an organization always finds its largest group of participants in its country of origin. The Belgians and Dutch are again amongst the most represented nationalities. They are mostly loyal customers that have grown with us from the very first rally. Years ago many were at the start with a standard Jeep or Landcruiser; meanwhile, they all have a Bowler, a Desert Warrior, an Overdrive, a buggy, new SSV or another prototype rally car.
But the event is no longer a monopoly of the Belgians and Dutch participants only. Also the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, Mexicans and British have found the rally and are working on catching up. The French participants, last year only 16, have increased to 66 this year, an increase of over 400 percent. The Spaniards come with 25, including the Herrador team. The Portuguese are 17 , amongst others Elisabete Jacinto with the MAN truck, the Honda factory rider Pedro Bianchi Prata and last but not least Nuno Matos, the national champion cross-country. More famous names from the stables of South Racing, Sodicars, Veka, Stephane Henrard, Mammoet, etc. are to follow on April 14th.
Amateurs and sub top, a conscious choice
Unlike many of its competitors the organization of the Morocco Desert Challenge is not preying on the world top & the factory teams. Organizer Gert Duson says: “Our rally has grown exponentially (100 people extra every year for the last 4 years) thanks to the amateurs and I’m very grateful to that group. By constantly evolving both my participants and my organization and with the introduction of two helicopters and GPS Unik of ERTF in our rally, we have climbed up to a different level than most amateur rallies. Today, 70 percent of our participants comprise the better hobby pilots and a sub-elite. And that is exactly the group that I am focusing focus at. We all realize that if you attract Peugeot, your ranking is known in advance. It should be a good game, with tough competition in the field and opportunities for all, but a good atmosphere in the camp is just as important to me. ”
Pilots with their heart in the right place
Morocco has, despite its rapid economic development, still a big poverty in some areas. Furthermore residents and especially school children in the mountainous and remote villages are suffering in the winter under harsh weather conditions since they are subject to very low temperatures.
To give them the support they need, the organizers of the rally, in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Agadir Taghazout Bay, have set up a humanitarian action. Each team will, as part of its technical and administrative scruteneering, bring a box of warm children’s clothing to Agadir. The aim of this cooperation is of course mainly of a social nature, but hopefully it also helps to place the rally in a good light.
The Morocco Desert Challenge 2017 starts in Agadir on 15 and 16 April with two days of scrutineering at the Al Amal Square. The first special will start on April 17 at 9am at Plage Blanche.
- Monday April 17: Stage 1: Plage Blanche – Icht: 387 km
- Tuesday, April 18: Stage 2: Icht – Foum Zguid: 359 km
- Wednesday 19: Stage 3: Foum Zguid – Oum Jrane: 345 km
- Thursday 20: Stage 4: Oum Jrane – Merzouga: 271.5 KM
- Friday 21: Stage 5: Merzouga Merzouga: 230 km
- Saturday 22: Stage 6: Merzouga – Tendrara: 405 km
- Sunday 23: Stage 7: Tendrara bivouac – Oujda: 178 km + awards in Saidia