With exactly 75 days to go before the start of the '14 Dakar rally major teams are getting in their last competitive events and testing before packing up their vehicles for the trip to South America. The 2013 Rally du Maroc (Rally Morocco) saw at least three of these top teams show up for a run through the dunes, sand and rock that should reflect similar conditions to the more "desert" oriented stages of the Dakar.
KTM was present with their top riders--Marc Coma, Chaleco Lopez and American Kurt Caselli. Caselli would suffer an early 20 minute penalty for missing a waypoint but would battle back to finish in 7th overall. Without the penalty, Caselli would have finished 6th overall, some 44 minutes back. The top 6 spots alternated Honda-KTM with Honda coming out on top and looking strong for Dakar. Additional note here is that while there was only one American in the field, there was also an Australian, two Venezuelans, one Mexican (Carlos Gracida-Garza who finished 20th on a Honda), two Chileans, one South African, one Bolivian and one Brit. Good to see a wide spread of entrants from across the globe.
Also showing up was a very cool Porsche from the Italian driver/codriving pair of Agostino Rizzardi and Loris Calubini. They appear to have only made it through Stage 3 of 6. Agostino has piloted a number of Porsches in various stage rally events around Europe and was using an 4WD Porsche 911 for Rally Morocco. Great to see one of these back out in the African sand again.
Lastly we have the SMG buggie (a French builder headed by Philippe Gache) that is backed by Cummins of France which finished 2nd overall. Piloted by Patrick Sireyjol with Francois Beguin as codriver, the Cummins France team finished nine minutes off the top step though this is a tad misleading as the event winner incurred 38 minutes of penalties. Dropping all penalties the Cummins team would have finished some 44 minutes adrift and still in second place overall. The Cummins vehicle prevented a clean sweep of the podium by the Rally-Raid dominant X-Raid Minis who finished first, third and fourth lead by top flight Dakar entrant Orlando Terranova.
Oh!! and the top Nissan in the event? It was the #342 of Michele Cinotto and Fulvio Zini who finished in 20th of 56 finishers with Nissan putting six finishing vehicles in the event behind only Toyota who saw 17 finishers carry their brand.
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