On the first six editions, the Merzouga Rally has been a venue for the top riders in the world to battle. Now part of the Dakar Series in 2016, it has also been a springboard for the next generation of riders. Back from two weeks of reconnaissance, the creator of the event, Edoardo Mossi, took great care in the writing of the road-book for the six-day rally. Rider seminars were also prepared by Sporting Director, Marc Coma.
The Dakar school… with instructor Marc Coma
“Our ambition is to allow young motorbike riders to get their start, on a race adapted to their abilities and at the same time give them an idea of the what the real rally-raid difficulties are: navigation and endurance”, explains Marc Coma. And the five-time Dakar winner is now preparing a series of seminars in which all the riders present on the Merzouga Rally are invited to. Five themes will be addressed all throughout this process. “The off-road, run in hostile conditions” (riding technics in the dunes, riverbeds, etc…), “road-book preparation, a hell’ (tips, diving into the lexicon…), “Physical training, path towards the Dakar” (ideas concerning hydration, work planning…), “Tour of the Dakar Horizon” (values, key numbers…), “Preparing the marathon stage” (mechanical aspects, how to manage the bike).
A semi-itinerant rally, with bivouac in the Atlas mountains
Counting the prologue, the times will be open during the six days of the Merzouga Rally. The contact with sand and dunes will be immediate and this year the riders will have to pack their own stuff more often. Most notably they will have to tackle a marathon stage with a bivouac in the Atlas Mountains at 2000 metres above sea level: “The 3rd and 4th stages are traced on all-new routes. First in the high lands, where it will be important to find the downhill points in the canyons”, details Edo Mossi. “The second part of this marathon stage will then propose a proper navigation test, which will be very technical and will necessitate following the road-book closely for kilometres!”
The Merzouga classic: a 100% dune stage
It is known as the dune Grand Prix circuit: a 35 kilometre loop to be ridden twice, with a lakeshore start. The two hours of special stage will turn to the advantage of the riders most at ease in the sand and could be decisive in determining the overall victory: “Last year, it was clearly the stage that decided the win between Svitko, Farres and eventually Botturi”, remembers Mossi.
Door open to enduro riders…
Exploring the dunes of the Sahara and make your rally-raid debut. With the Merzouga Rally, the riders who have a Dakar project in their future, in particular the Europeans, have the chance to see how they measure up in far more accessible conditions. “For example, the enduro riders can come with their bikes: the service areas are positioned depending on their petrol tanks, which are smaller than those of the bikes prepared for the Dakar”, insists Edo. An original feature of the Merzouga Rally is that riders can get a training road-book, on a 30 kilometre route that the riders can use as they like on the scrutineering days and prologue.
One rally, three routes
The wish to host new participants drove the organisers to offer two more accessible formulas to bike and quad competitors with less experience but who are attracted to off-road competition. So an “Expert” route, which uses 75% of the total distance of the “Pro” version, has been created. In a framework accented towards adventure, those who sign up for the “Raid” route will be accompanied by a guide, and will share an initiation into dune riding as well as navigation.
Two tickets to grab for the Dakar Challenge
On the Merzouga Rally, the Dakar Challenge will reward the winners of the two different categories. First, the winner of the general classification will win his entry to the Dakar in the “Licence to skill” framework, while the fastest of those who has never taken part will be eligible for “Rookie of the Year”.