Action in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies resumes this week with the fourth event in this year’s series, Rallye du Maroc (October 7-13). Based around a central bivouac in Zagora, south of Ouarzazate, the five legs take in a wide range of technical, fast and sandy tracks, as well as dunes, and will be the setting for world-class action on the 21st anniversary event running in the Draa River valley in the southeast of Morocco.
Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov head an impressive entry list in their MINI John Cooper Works Rally. The Russians, leading the series with two second positions overall this season, are however in the thick of a battle with Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel who are just half a point adrift in the FIA World Cup standings. The Qatari/French Toyota pairing, returning to action in the series for the first since the opening round in Spain, are not only multiple champions in the discipline, but have an imposing history of five victories on Rallye du Maroc (2014-2018).
Lucio Alvarez and Armand Monleon hold joint third in the series alongside Mattias Ekström, the Argentine/Spanish pairing having claimed the win in Kazakhstan. Ekström and Emil Bergkvist will also be fighting hard for top honours and, on equal points and with just two separating them and Al Attiyah/Baumel, the Swedes will be looking to close the gap and better their third-place finish on Rally Kazakhstan in June. Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr also return to action in their Toyota Hilux Overdrive. The Saudi Arabian/British duo have had a fine run on recent events in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, with Al-Rajhi leading the series with one round remaining. With a fifth place finish in Morocco in 2019, when the event last ran due to the pandemic, they need to capitalise on the momentum to reduce the eight point deficit to the lead in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The French crew of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot have one fourth place finish to their names this season, and the Polish/German pairing of Jakub Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk join the contenders for the first time this year. They finished third on the event in 2019. A host of other top cross-country drivers also join the action in Morocco, including Paulo Ferreira, Sebastian Halpern and Mathieu Serradori, who so nearly claimed a maiden victory with the Century CR6 in Kazakhstan.
The 13-strong field of T3 contenders is headed by Cristina Gutierrez, who is co-driven by Frenchman François Cazalet. The Spanish OT3 driver is leading the category by 20.5 points after winning in Spain and Kazakhstan and her nearest rival, Fernando Alvarez, will again be pushing hard after claiming two second positions in T3 this season.
No fewer than 25 crews have entered in T4 with the top three series rivals going head to head. American, Austin Jones, leads the category with a 27.5 point advantage over Dutchman Kees Koolen, while Eugenio Amos trails by a further seven points. All three will be fielding Can-Am Mavericks with the chasing pack looking to topple their top results.