Al Amal, the main square in Agadir, is packed with participants. After scrutineering this weekend, they will start the first of seven stages tomorrow. We had a little chat with teams and pilots.
Tim Coronel : “I didn’t want to miss this one”
Two years ago he first participated to the “then called” Libya Rally, a very pleasant experience. He liked it that much so he did not have to think long. "The Dakar was two weeks of trouble," says Coronel. "I've driven two weeks behind my brother Tom, with the sole purpose of getting both of us at the finish line. Now I want to enjoy and have fun driving. I consider it a week's holiday and a present to myself, for the team and for my baby - the buggy. Tom unfortunately couldn’t join. I have considered not to go, but I just do not want to abstain. "
Competitive as he is, Coronel obviously looks at the ranking with a slanted eye. "But it's not a priority," he says. "I'm in the buggy class, but there are so many top vehicles in my class that I really do not want to make myself any illusions. I do not want to stress, but just drive pleasantly.”
Pedro Bianchi Prata: "I'm here To Win"
A surprising name on the participant list of the Morocco Desert Challenge is that of Pedro Bianchi Prata. The Portuguese Honda’s factory rider has participated on a high level in major rallies like the Dakar, what makes him one of the favourites in the motorcycle classification. "But every rally is unpredictable," warns Bianchi. "Of course I'm here to win. I always want to win. But I'm not here as a factory rider, but with my own team and my own engine: a standard machine, really out of the box. "
Bianchi Prata wants to have a superb ride. "I think this is an incredibly beautiful event. I wanted to drive a real cross country rally again. Not those rounds on a motocross track, as with many other rallies. Without connection, pure off road from bivouac to bivouac, with many race kilometres through beautiful landscapes; that’s what I've missed in, for example at the Dakar. "
Gert Huzink: "A nice rally"
Gert Huzink damaged his truck so badly that he was forced to abandon the Dakar in an early stage. Participating in the Morocco Desert Challenge serves several goals for Huzink: "First of all, I really had a Dakar hangover. I'm glad to be here again, especially with my Renault in superb state. We want to continue with a clean sheet."
Huzink is a former winner of the Libya Rally. This time that will not be self-evident, he realizes. "It's a strong field, with fast competitors and a quick lady in front. Of course, I want to go for a rostrum, but I want to make my kilometres and gain experience. Winning would be fun, but driving with my brains and having fun are more important. "
Agostino Rizzardi: "Pressure is rising"
With his Porsche 911, Agostino Rizzardi is a special appearance. The Italian has been here for many years, but his endeavour remains the same. "I am very excited," he says. "The car is good, we are good at it, and I’m looking forward to it. We have a completely new suspension system, specially made for us in Italy. I have high hopes. The pressure is rising because we want to perform. I also know that I can get well far in front of others. But in thirty seconds, your ambitions to a rostrum can be gone and you're already happy to reach the finish. We look at it from day to day.”
That's also a reason for Rizzardi to keep pace with the Porsche. "If I get started with a Toyota Hilux, I have to win. It's nice that the league gets stronger each year, but I do not want that pressure. With my Porsche, it's not necessary, even if it's an ideal car for off road, because the engine is in the back. I just love this car. It's a sexy car and a pleasure to drive in. Publicity and attention I get enough. Much more than if I were to drive with a Toyota or a Bowler.
Floor Maten: "No idea what to expect"
Floor Maten knows the Morocco Desert Challenge in depth from an organiser’s side. Now she wants to explore the rally as a participant, on the motorbike. And who knows, as one of the two female motorcycle riders she might have a go for the Ladies Trophy. "But I am not thinking that far ahead yet” she laughs. "I have done much traveling on the motorbike, and have also driven enduro and off road rides in the Netherlands, but I have never done a rally. I have no idea what to expect: I have never driven into the dunes for example. "
Her Beta 390 could, with a little help from the Boss Machinery team, sign up for the Ladies Trophy at an attractive price. "I consider this a nice opportunity to see if I can make it and if I like it. With my student budget - last year I completed my study of biomedical technology, but with my study of civil engineering still going - it is feasible for me. "
Peter Erren: "Even before the start I blew up my engine"
Peter Erren's wanted to test his Bowler's, but after 130 kilometres on the Moroccan highway, the engine blew up. "A big smoke cloud, all oil running out, so end of story," says Erren. "We immediately took action. A new block would be flown in from the Netherlands, but at Schiphol it was refused because there was an oil leakage. So in Casablanca we found a BMW dealer who had two used blocks in the back of the barn. "
Instead of going straight to technical inspection, the Erren Rally Racing team had to replace the broken block which had a fist-sized hole, so that the car could still be presented at technical inspection on Sunday to take the start Monday. "And then figure out what exactly went wrong since it could have been a failure in the new computer system and if that's the case, it could re-occur with the new block which of course we want to avoid.”
Pascal de Baar: "Navigating is an art"
It's strange to find Pascal de Baar’s as navigator of Eimbert Timmermans in a DAF. In recent years, De Baar raced himself in a Renault. Last year he won a stage in the Dakar. "My truck is being rebuilt at this moment. Therefore, I could not participate myself. But when Eimbert asked if I would like to join him as a navigator in his new truck, I thought: why not? I can still navigate, as a motorcyclist, and have always closely followed it all.
"I see it as an opportunity to continue to develop myself and maintain my skills. To continue to grow and perform better as a rider, you must continue to develop other automatic actions. Navigating is an art. It's about learning to understand how the author of the roadbook thinks so that you can pick up the instincts without getting trapped. A good navigator is very important. I also like to see this side of the medal and will help Eimbert to improve his truck. It's a nice to help and little things such as adjusting a suspension is something which can already mean a lot. "
Thierry Gerome: "More stability and hopefully less leaky tires"
Finishing a rally is already a challenge, but for Thierry Gerome and his navigator Geoffrey Noel de Burlin there is an additional challenge: both Belgians are bound to a wheelchair. "Last year we had to swap tires five times a day," says Gerome. "For this year we have other tires, which hopefully will be more reliable. And we have developed a system that helps us to get the spare wheels a bit easier, so hopefully we can win now instead of losing too much time. "
What will be helpful as well is the extended model of the Polaris; According to Gerome the first in Europe and this extended Polaris draws a lot of attention. "Because this model is longer than the usual ssv, it is more stable. We expect a lot of it. Maybe it's a minor disadvantage in the dunes, but an ordinary 4x4 or average buggy is even longer and they are also coming through without any problems."
Joey van den Outenaar: "I will not overdo it anymore"
Last year, Joey van den Outenaar did not have luck. On the first day, the quad had to be towed. If all is right, the problems are now resolved. "We especially had problems with the exhaust," says Van den Outenaar, just before presented the quad at technical inspection. ”It was so hot that the heat could not go away. Now we have other dampers and we have removed the caps on the sides so that the heat can escape. I am also going to drive a lot more quietly. Last year I did too much of it. "
Just by going more quietly and less competitive at the start of the race, Van den Outenaar hopes to achieve more. "I'm with my father. Our goal is to get to the finish together. If it's in place 1 and 2, it would be nice but finishing and enjoying together is the most important. "
Rob van Pelt: "See if it's possible with a lower budget"
The Suzuki Vitara of Rob van Pelt is quite remarkable between the big shiny and brute bolides. "It's the ugly duck of the participant’s field," Van Pelt laughs. "I drove the Baja Germany with it and all went well, so why not Morocco? I am eager to know whether it's possible with a lighter car. It's a standard car without any luxury. It is a challenge in a challenge. "
The first challenge anyhow is to join the rally as a rider. After a long career on the motorbike, Van Pelt has been active as a navigator for a number of years, in recent years next to Maik Willems in the Toyota Hilux. Willems has in this rally Ed Wigman next to him and Van Pelt is driver with Bram van Dorp as navigator.