ERFOUD (MOROCCO): Localised heavy rain and flooding took its toll on the route for this year’s OiLibya Rally of Morocco, round 10 of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, but the adverse weather conditions and shortened route failed to prevent South Racing bringing all three of its cars to the finish in Erfoud on Tuesday afternoon.
The Chilean Ford Ranger crew of Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach reached Erfoud in 15th overall. They managed to overtake the Czech pairing of Tomáš Ouřednīček and David Křipal on the final stage, although the second Ford Ranger team were classified in 16th.
The German duo of Jürgen and Daniel Schröder lost a lot of time on day one after breaking a rear drive shaft in their Nissan Navara and reached the finish in 24th.
“It was a good race for the team and definitely challenging,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “The important thing was we got all three cars to the finish. All the crews enjoyed the rally and, as is true with all cross-country events, you learn a few things along the way. We will definitely be using this knowledge going forward to Baja Portalegre at the end of October, which is the penultimate event for South Racing this year.”
The South Racing trio started brightly on the 12km super special stage that meandered through the arid hills around 40km from Fèz.Ouřednīček led the way in 15th of the 43 entrants, while Schröder and Garces were 18th and 23rd.
On day one, a shortened stage was laid on in a first day’s route of over 820km between Fèz and Erfoud and multiple WRC champion Sébastien Loeb moved into the outright lead. Ouřednīček completed the special in a time of 4hrs 28min 19sec that was sufficient to give the Czech driver the 17th quickest time. Garces reached the finish in 21st but Schröder lost around an hour with his drive shaft failure and slipped to 34th after completing 340km of the day’s route in just front-wheel drive.
The second selective section, which should have looped through the Erg Chebbi and around the Erfoud bivouac, was trimmed from 354.45km to around 150km because of flooding and an impassable wadi en route. Carlos Sainz pipped Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to the stage win by 54 seconds before being penalised, as the South Racing trio of Schröder, Ouřednīček and Garces reached the finish in 17th, 19th and 21st.
A course opening crew was sent out to check the route for day three and race officials decided to cancel the longer opening stage and send teams in convoy to the start of a shorter second stage of 142.79km. Garces, Schröder and Ouřednīček completed the section in 19th, 24thand 26th and held 20th, 29th and 19th at the Marathon bivouac in Erg Lihoudi.
The fourth day was originally split into two competitive sections of 191.56km and 263.51km on the return to Erfoud, but the road book was heavily modified again. Ouřednīček, Garces and Schröder finished the day with the 16th, 18th and 31st quickest times and returned to Erfoud in 16th, 17th and 28th overall.
The fifth day was held as per the schedule and the three South Racing cars stayed out of trouble to reach the finish in Erfoud in 15th, 16thand 24th with Garces managing to move up two places over the closing kilometres.
2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco – final positions (unofficial @ 16.25hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 10hrs 39min 34sec
2. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (FRA) Peugeot 3008 DKR 10hrs 47min 29sec
3. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini John Cooper Works Rally 11hrs 09min 12sec
4. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Mini All4 Racing 11hrs 09min 19sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini Cooper Countryman 11hrs 22min 59sec
6. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 11hrs 36min 08sec
15 Hernan Garces (CHI)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHI) South Racing Ford Ranger 13hrs 47min 21sec
16. Tomáš Ouřednīček (CZE)/David Křipal (CZE) South Racing Ford Ranger 13hrs 51min 48sec
24. Jürgen Schröder (DEU)/Daniel Schröder (DEU) South Racing Nissan Navara 15hrs 56min 29sec