World Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Rallye du Maroc: Audis set the tone, Howes bows out of Prologue

2 Mins read
Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

Friday the 13th claimed a victim in Skyler Howes, whose début with Monster Energy Honda Rally Team was over before it really got started when he crashed in the nineteen-kilometre Prologue to the Rallye du Maroc.

Howes, new to Honda after moving over from Husqvarna, was running his first World Rally-Raid Championship round since fracturing his scapula at the Sonora Rally in April. Although he was able to get back up from his crash during Friday’s leg without particularly serious injury, he reported back and knee pain that has sidelined him for the rest of the rally and ruins his hopes of repeating.

“Halfway through the prologue I hit a big hole in the sand. I didn’t think it would be bad but the back end stepped out and I went down hard. Just a good old fashion swap out yard sale,” wrote Howes. “Right away I knew my race was over just as fast as it began. I have some pain in my back and knee, but the feeling and movement is all good so I’m hoping for the best outcome and quick recovery. Before this, I was feeling really good and putting in a fast prologue effort. I’m proud of the work we’ve done as a team and was feeling more than confident for a good result, but as things go, sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail.”

While Howes is already out of the race, his Honda allies quickly stepped up in his place. Tosha Schareina, the Desafío Ruta 40 bike winner, narrowly beat out Howes’ fellow American Monster Energy Honda rider Ricky Brabec by just four-tenths of a second. Ross Branch was back by just two seconds.

In the four-wheel classes, a pair of Audis led a pair of Toyotas as Mattias Ekström topped Stéphane Peterhansel by four seconds, with Yazeed Al-Rajhi and new Toyota driver Guerlain Chicherit in tow. Carlos Sainz, the third Audi, was sixth.

Eryk Goczał led T3 in his class début, clearing points leader Mitch Guthrie by seven seconds. Goczał will be the first W2RC-eligible driver to begin Stage #1 on Saturday after a draw of the top ten Prologue overall, though brothers Marcos and Cristian Baumgart—who were respectively ninth and eighth overall on Friday—will kick off the stage. Ekström, as the Prologue winner, was the first to select his starting spot and will roll out tenth.

Eight days after speaking with The Checkered Flag, João Ferreira topped T4 to kick off his maiden race with South Racing.

Nassser Al-Attiyah had an alternator issue that resulted in an uncharacteristic finish of twenty-first in T1.

Bradley Cox was the highest Rally2 bike in tenth overall, beating RallyGP riders like Adrien Van Beveren and José Ignacio Cornejo. Cox, the DR 40 victor in his class, previously surprised when he set the fastest overall Prologue time among bikes at the Sonora Rally.

Cheikh Yves Jacquemain, racing for Africa Rallye Team, led the way in Rally3.

Prologue winners

T1206Mattias EkströmTeam Audi Sport10:19.8
T2250Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body14:10
T3314Eryk GoczałEnergyLandia Rally Team10:49.6
T4403João FerreiraSouth Racing Can-Am12:20.3
T5501Martin Macík Jr.MM Technology12:54.6
RallyGP68Tosha Schareina*Honda Team11:03.2 (55:15.2)
Rally232Bradley CoxBAS World KTM Racing Team11:40.5 (58:20.5)
Rally3164Cheikh Yves JacquemainAfrica Rallye Team13:14.5 (1:06:10.5)
Quad180Laisvydas KanciusStory Racing SRO13:07.8 (1:05:35.8)
Open Auto601Jérôme Cambier*MD Rallye Sport12:23
Open SSV653Tomas Mickus*BRO Racing13:32
FIM overall times in parentheses
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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