For its third edition with the Dakar Series label, between 15th and 20th April, the Merzouga Rally will welcome bikers, quad riders and Side-by-Side drivers for a rally-raid challenge in Morocco.
Dunes to be crossed, labyrinths of faster tracks and a demanding marathon stage will be on the menu, for the elite competitors as well as for amateurs who wish to gain an introduction to the rally-raid discipline or test themselves with a view to a first participation on the Dakar.
After a second series of reconnoitring devoted to drawing up the definitive version of the road-book, Edoardo Mossi and his team have concocted a programme that stands out thanks to the variety of terrains proposed. “It’s a more comprehensive route than we usually put forward. It is ideal for an initial introduction to rally-raids whilst at the same time very close to what the Dakar was like when it took place in Africa. We have excellent knowledge of this entire region and we have witnessed the fact that it is a living desert: once we had to clear a rocky zone over two kilometres in order to create a route through it. The following year, it had become a track because the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages had started to use it for their daily travel!”
15 April – “Free practice” and Prologue
The Merzouga Rally gives a special place to competitors who are discovering the rally-raid discipline. First and foremost, it is for them that “Free practice” has been adopted: a training route of approximately forty kilometres in length including dunes and tracks. The novices will be able to test themselves against each other, check how their navigation instruments are working and get used to reading the road-book. However, the clock will already be ticking on this day, with a 5-km long prologue.
16 April - Stage 1
The first stage represents an accessible introduction. Two different loops are on the programme and will send the bikes and quads on a separate special from the SxS. Many new zones will be visited on this route, which will be punctuated with sandy spots and quicker stretches.
17 April - Stage 2
The level of difficulty will be cranked up a notch, in particular with regard to crossing dunes. It is also during this stage, contested over two separate loops, that the navigation will be spiced up. Deciphering the road-book will be a delicate task: the most experienced will be at an advantage in following the right heading to find the way-points.
18 April - Stage 3
A marathon stage spread over two days comprises the heart of the rally, as well as the sporting stakes on which the newcomers as well as the experienced riders will be assessed. The rally will head south to stop at a marathon bivouac site that is totally isolated and which has never yet been explored by the event. To reach it, the competitors will have to get through a veritable maze of tracks: “the winner on this special will probably be the one who goes the slowest!” warns Edo Mossi.
19 April - Stage 4
The concept of endurance is especially palpable on the marathon stages, because only assistance between competitors is authorised at the bivouac. It will be decisive for the machines to be in good running order, with dunes to be climbed and crossed as the rally heads back up through Morocco, as well as in the many sandy wadis typical in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Whoever has managed to get through this twofold exercise will be ready for the Dakar.
20 April - Stage 5
The hardest part of the rally will have been completed, but there is no question of relaxing or underestimating the last stage of approximately 80 kilometres in length, made up entirely of dunes. Whilst the start will have a gala ambiance with a grouped start for the three categories, the day’s challenge will nonetheless be physically tough. The title and places on the podium will be contested at the end of an intense sprint. More importantly, nobody will be safe from making a mistake that could be fatal to their chances.
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