Afriquia Merzouga Rally: 
Raring to go

As the clock ticks down towards the ninth edition of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally, which starts with a free practice session and a prologue tomorrow, competitors and organisers are hard at work on the final details.

The imposing Toumbouctou Hotel, right at the foot of the towering dunes of Merzouga in southern Morocco, appears deceptively calm. This is where the Afriquia Merzouga Rally has set up its base camp —a focal point of the ninth edition of the race. Despite temperatures well above 25 °C, assistance crews are hard at work on the motorbikes, quads and side-by-side buggies on the start list. Everything has to be ready for the start tomorrow.

A springboard to the Dakar

Rookies can hardly contain their enthusiasm as they look on in awe at the growth of the bivouac and the preparations of the leading teams (KTM, Honda and Sherco). The Afriquia Merzouga Rally is the ideal race to get a feel for tough rally raids, as well as a springboard to the Dakar.

Evening courses by famous drivers and riders will be organised after each stage for any competitors who want to hone their skills. Tomorrow, the first course is about preparing a road book. “I’m used to spending a week on the dunes with my friends, but I’ve never really had to worry about navigation”, says a rookie who is also “eager to learn”.

Into the deep end

Rookies are sharing the bivouac with more experienced competitors who take part in one rally raid after another. For them, today was an opportunity to meet up with some old friends. “There are lots of people I hadn’t seen since the Dakar”, says a mechanic in the canteen. “It’s great to get back in touch with everyone, especially in such a jaw-dropping setting.” The 60-person strong organising team is also taking care of the final details. “It’s time to get the machine going”, explains race founder Edo Mossi. “The organisers are working with the same mindset as a biker: getting the machine ready and taking care of everything to be ready tomorrow.”

The competitors will be thrown into the deep end on Sunday. After waking up, they will go through administrative and technical scrutineering. The motorbikes, quads and side-by-side buggies will then hit the track for a free practice session starting at 4 pm local time and a prologue at 6 pm to establish the starting order of the opening stage on Monday. “When you see the dunes out there, there’s only one thing on your mind: hopping onto your bike and having a go at them”, says a competitor with a mischievous look in his eyes. Sunday? Bring it on!

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