Rallye du Maroc 2022: D6 - Wins for "outsiders" Howes and Chicherit

Rallye du Maroc 2022: D6 - Wins for "outsiders" Howes and Chicherit

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The 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, held on tracks unfamiliar to the ‘regulars’, ended in Agadir with some unprecedented victories. In the motorcycle category, the American Skyler Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing) took his first world championship win. In the cars, Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit (GCK Motorsport) made a victorious return among the elite, dominating the W2RC duel between Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) and Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing), that played out to the Qatari’s advantage.


It was an emotional Skyler Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing) who savoured his victory at the end of a far from straight forward fifth stage of the Rallye du Maroc. “Man, I pushed so hard,” admitted the American. “I don’t even have the words to explain what I’m feeling right now. It was always just a dream for me to race rallies. To be here on a factory bike and win a round of the world championship is the coolest feeling in the world. There’s been a lot of sacrifices but it is moments like this that make it all worthwhile.” If everything came together this morning for Skyler it unravelled big time for his compatriot Ricky Brabec who lost all chance of holding onto his slim lead at pk 11 of the special, missing a corner and looking for a way point. Philosophical at the end, he vowed to go home “and train and work on find WPCs on less visible pistes”. Despite a difficult stage, the Monster Energy Honda rider nevertheless managed to hold onto a podium place, finishing third behind Howes’ teammate Luciano Benavides. In Rally 2 yet another American, Mason Klein (BAS World KTM Racing) won the category, exactly one year after making his rally raid debut. In a different league to his rivals all week, he finished a staggering 40 minutes ahead of second placed man and today’s stage winner, the South African Bradley Cox with Frenchman Romain Dumontier third. In Rally3, for enduro based bikes, the Moroccan Amine Echiguer (Africa Rally Team) wins yet another stage to take the overall ahead of the Frenchman Guillaume Borne and the Indian Abdul Wahid. On the quads it is the Argentinian Manuel Andujar (Drag’on Rally Team) who wins. Winner of the first two stages and overall leader throughout the race, he wins 46 mins ahead of Axel Dutrie and more than 3 hours ahead of the Lithuanian Kancius.

In the cars, Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) who pulled out of the stage yesterday with power steering failure was today on a mission to rack up as many world championship points as possible. Mission accomplished for the Frenchman won the stage to finish 8th overall following the penalties he incurred yesterday. A favourable outcome for Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) who finished the stage in 5th position and 3rd place overall. It is now the Qatari who leads the W2RC ahead of the final round, the Andalucía Rally, in a few days’ time. Orlando Terranova (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) finished 2nd overall behind the winner of the 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit (see Stat of the Day). The GCK Motorsport driver was on the podium every day but never on the top step. He leaves with a lot of confidence: "I felt good in the car straight away. Alex was confident with navigation, we opened the track a lot and he did an incredible job that allowed me to maintain my pace and not lose time. It's good preparation for the Dakar. Everyone was here. It takes some of the weight off our shoulders."

In T3, Belgian Guillaume De Mevius (Red Bull Off-Road Junior) won the day's stage, two minutes ahead of "Chaleco" Lopez (Can-Am Factory South Racing) and his teammate Cristina Gutierrez, who finished 45 seconds behind her opponent and world championship leader. Seth Quintero (Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA) finished fourth at 3'26'', a result that allows him to keep the overall lead and win his first Rallye du Maroc. "Chaleco" finished second ahead of Cristina.

In T4 Marek Goczal (Cobant-Energylandia Rally) won the stage to finish 5th overall. Rokas Baciuska (South Racing Can-Am) won the race, ahead of Pau Navarro (FN Speed) by 9'34'' and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (South Racing Can-Am) by 16'35''.

In Open SSV Maroc Telecom, Paulo Rui Ferreira and David Monteiro with the Yamaha Powered by X-raid won the class. The new Yamaha prototype looks like it is ready for next Dakar.

In the T5 category, Gert Huzink (Riwald Dakar) won the last stage but it is Martin Macik (MM Technology) who wins the race ahead of Kees Koolen (Project 2030) and Tomas Vratny (Fesh Fesh). In the Open class, the three Audi RS S e-tron Evo 2 cars ran the entire race without a hitch - repositioned each morning behind the leaders - at a pace similar to the best FIA cars.

Skyler Howes might not have started out as favourite to win the Rallye du Maroc – his first major international victory – but nobody could deny he deserved it. A successful American desert racer Skyler was inspired to enter his first Dakar back in 2019 after listening to the stories from compatriots Chris Blais and Kurt Caselli. He went out of that edition on stage 5 but was nevertheless infected by the Dakar virus. Back in 2020 he finished 9th, a more than respectable result for a privateer but not enough apparently to turn the head of a team manager. With funds running low he decided to make one last ditch effort to win a factory ride, selling all his worldly possessions, including his 2019 Dakar bike, to pay for a place in leading privateer team BAS World KTM Racing for Dakar 2021. Crossing the final finish line in an impossible to ignore 5th place, he was promptly snapped up by Husqvarna Factory Racing. His dream factory debut turned into nightmare when he crashed out on the fifth stage but he was able to come back to race the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March and finish 10th. One of the most positive professional riders on the bivouac, this is just the result he needed as January approaches.

Guerlain Chicherit has made a number of unsuccessful rally raid comebacks, with accumulated disappointments provoking a 5 year break. Last year, the Frenchman came back at the wheel of an ‘old’ Peugeot 3008 DKR in the colours of his GCK Motorsport team. Without much opposition, the former four-time freestyle skiing world champion won a shortened edition of the Silk Way. But his luck run out on the 2022 Dakar where he finished an anecdotal 68th place in Jeddah. After 11 Dakars, including 4 DNFs, and as many Top 10 finishes, the scenario of his previous comeback attempts seemed to be repeating. The announcement of his deal with the Prodrive team a few weeks before the 2022 Rallye du Maroc had a whiff of déjà vu about it. But this week Guerlain proved all the doubters wrong! Although only his second Rallye du Maroc, Chicherit immediately showed that he was not there to make up the numbers. Third on the first two stages, he was third in the provisional standings before taking the lead the next day. Second on the 3 last stages, the Frenchman has had the pace of the three world championship leaders Loeb, Al Attiyah and Al Rajhi. Taking advantage of the same car as Sébastien Loeb and the development already carried out by the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, which placed Loeb and Terranova in 2nd and 4th positions on the 2022 Dakar, Chicherit will start next January prepared as never before. After the 2023 Dakar, he will take part in the entire W2RC and then the 2024 Dakar. The expected birth of his child in a few days could keep him away from Andalusia, for the last round of the world championship, but Guerlain knows, he is "ready as ever".

Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing), 3rd on the Rallye du Maroc, has taken the lead in the FIA world championship with an advantage of 22 points over Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme), the previous leader.Sam Sunderland, 5th in Morocco and consistent throughout the race, has strengthened his position as leader (on 74 points) and finds himself ahead of the Monster Energy Honda bikes ridden by Pablo Quintanilla (on 52 points) and Ricky Brabec (50 points). Mason Klein (Rally 2), Alexandre Giroud (quad) and “Chaleco” Lopez (T3) have all retained their 1st places whilst in the T4 class, Rokas Baciuska (South Racing Can-Am) and Marek Goczał (Cobant-Energylandia Rally) are now neck-and-neck. Although Martin Macik (MM Technology) led the rally from start to finish, nonetheless Kees Koolen has been crowned FIA rally-raid world champion in the T5 (truck) category.
The titles in the other categories will be decided on completion of the final leg of the season at the Andalucía Rally from 18th to 23rd October.

Stéphane Peterhansel (Audi Sport) : "We did five days of racing without any technical problems. It's true that it was a bit hard to stay focused when you're not in the race, but apart from some punctures and navigation errors, we didn't encounter any problems. The question mark remains our performance over the length of a Dakar. But the test of reliability that we came to look for was successful.”


Source Rallye Du Maroc / ASO
Photo DPPI

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