Rui Cabaço, the Maroc Challenge briefing man, offers us some idea of what awaits us in this next edition, running November 30th till December 8th. Practically two weeks from the start of the event, which already has 180 teams signed up, everyone is revving their engines and eager to go.
Have you broken a record in participation?
It is the largest in our history, a great surprise. In general winter editions have less participation, so reaching this record makes expectations for the next Spring high. The Maroc Challenge has become a reference in the amateur team sector, proving we are on the right track with the novelties introduced in previous editions and tailoring the routes to the different categories.
A lot has been commented about the Winter 2018 itinerary in recent months and in the last reconnaissances you have made some adjustments, will it be the toughest Maroc in history?
It will be one of the most adventurous editions and the itinerary will provide the greatest variety of landscapes. It may also be one of the hardest, but due to the big storms in Morocco during the last months and, consequently, the deterioration of some tracks, we have strived to avoid as many river fords, flood plains and problem areas as possible to avoid bad weather forcing us to change itineraries at the last moment. To compensate, however, we have added more dunes and many offroad stretches, with many new features in relation to previous editions. Returning to the question however… will it be the hardest? We must wait and see how the teams adapt to the novelties of this edition.
You have always stressed that the Winter 2018 will include a lot of sand …
This Maroc Winter will be the edition with most sand of all, adjusted for all the different categories, of course. It will be the edition in which for the first time the imposing Erg-Chebbi will be crossed in its entirety, from south to north, the edition with the most extension of sandy river beds and also the longest offroad track. They will have sand up to their eyeballs.
What is going to make the biggest difference?
As in all editions, the differences will come down to team pace and regularity along with their ability to maintain their engines and mechanics. In this edition we must also stress the itinerant factor, which can hinder the next day’s departure in the event of breakdowns.
A tip for making the last preparations?
Good vehicle maintenance. A general mechanical overhaul is always very important. Given the amount of sand and dunes in this edition, it is also important to check the clutch, which an event like this one can wear out. Also remember to take good sand plates and to check or improve the vehicle’s illumination, as there is a distinct possibility of finishing some stages after dark.
Finally, why has the last stage been modified?
The routes are prepared many months in advance and we always try to stick to the initial design, which this time was done in March, but the reconnaissances can cause some changes, this year we have had to delay them due to bad weather, but that means we also have a more accurate and updated idea of what state the routes are in. The changes to the last stage on the other hand were due to the closure for renovation of the hotel in Saidia, where the end-of-event party was planned. The awards ceremony will still take place at Saidia beach on December 8th in the morning, but the stage will end in Oujda, about 60 kilometers away.