The Morocco Desert Challenge of 2019 opened with a stage of 216 kilometers from Plage Blanche to Abetteh and that was certainly not an easy start. It was not so much the terrain that was difficult, but the navigation all the more. The winners of the opening stage - Joan Pedrero for the motorbikes, Philippe Pinchedez for the ssv’s, Erik van Loon for the cars, Martin van den Brink for the trucks - all mentioned navigation as the crucial point.
Joan Pedrero rode the entire day together with Skyler Howes, who finished second in 11 seconds. "It was difficult to navigate because every roadbook maker works differently and I had to learn to read this typical roadbook," said the Spanish motorcyclist. “That is especially important now, because I have to open the stage tomorrow. That is quite difficult, but this first day was a good training and opening is the consequence of winning. Winning a stage, and certainly the first stage, is always good for confidence."
Howes had enjoyed it too. The American was very pleased with the ride. "It was fun! The collaboration with Pedrero was also good, we always helped each other and navigated together. There were a lot of tricky parts in terms of navigation and the track was a bit more stony than I expected, but it was a nice day.”
For the number 3, Dutchman Paul Spierings, it was easier because he already had two tracks in front of him. “I have a bad cold and I was quite bothered by it, so I let the two go. I drove quietly, looked closely and usually quickly saw where the other two had made mistakes. I am more than satisfied with the result."
At the ssv’s, the first victory went to Philippe Pinchedez. "It was a good start to the rally," said the Frenchman. “The SSV has kept up very well. I'm very content. We started carefully because we didn't want to destroy anything. We also let others pass in the beginning. ” Navigator Jean Brucy had to get used to the roadbook and that was another reason for not starting too fast. "But it's a good roadbook”, the experienced navigator said, “it's well put together and is very precise."
Marc Lauwers, who drives alone, had his hands full driving and navigating. The Belgian had to open the stage and lost some time, but he was not dissatisfied with the eighth time. “It took some getting used to doing everything alone. If you make a mistake, you can only swear on yourself. But it was a pleasant ride. The little car is doing fine: nothing rattles, the suspension is good.”
Erik van Loon and Paulo Ferreira soon took over the lead of the cars from Tomas Ourednicek and Maik Willems. "It was a great day," said Van Loon, who won the stage and rode in front most of the day. “That wasn't easy. We had to search a few times for the right way and Ferreira just followed us, so it didn't benefit from it.”
Ourednicek soon had to withdraw from the fight because the engine of the car and the gearbox broke down. "The car is not ready for the race," said the Czech. “So much smoke was constantly coming from under the hood that I was worried that everything was on fire. I doubt that we can start tomorrow."
Siarhei Viazovich and Maurik van den Heuvel had a good start with the trucks, but the MAZ and the Scania had to leave the Renault to Martin van den Brink. His navigator Wouter de Graaff had a great time. “Race director Jean-Claude Kaket is a champion in finding difficult paths. He sends you from left to right, but the roadbook is correct to the millimetre. We were also on the wrong track for a while, but Martin remained calm and that allowed me to find the path quickly and in the meantime Viazovich and Maurik van den Heuvel were heading in the wrong direction full throttle.”
Moto #151 Eduardo Iglesias (Spain)
This is an exciting moment! I come here basically to continue learning about navigation, in a long rally, living in the bivouac; I have the goal of going to Dakar 2020 and I think this is excellent training for that: lots of navigation and (I think) a bit of “suffering” as well; this is a large rally, it looks very well organized, probably the biggest after Dakar, it’s not just for bikes, but also cars, SSV, trucks… it’s important to get used to race in the middle of all that heavy traffic…
SSV #211 Ricardo Vela / Sergio Molins (Spain)
(Ricardo) This is our third time here, and we continue coming because of the great experience, the sporting side is very strong, nothing to do with the “professionally focused” races, which are full of stress, it’s exactly what we are looking for.
(Sergio) Our goal is to finish, obviously, enjoying the race as much as we can but also putting on a bit of a fight with our competitors.
Source Morocco Desert Challenge's official press release