The 2023 Morocco Desert Challenge took place in unusually hot conditions for April, tragically contributing to the death of bike competitor Bram van der Wouden from heat stroke. In hopes of reducing the risks of repeat medical incidents in 2024, race officials announced Friday that the Malle Moto class will not be held while all competitors are required to present a passing fitness test from within the past year.
Van der Wouden raced in the Malle Moto category, which is reserved for bike riders competing without any assistance from a team or crew. A former Dakar Rally Malle Moto alumnus, the 48-year-old was discovered by his peers lying on the ground next to his bike during a stage, dying from heat stroke by the time medical workers arrived on the scene. His passing came just a day after the death of co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter, who was killed in a fiery accident that resulted in burns and hospitalisation for his driver Patrice Garrouste.
In the wake of the tragedies, the MDC elected to drop Malle Moto from the 2024 programme. With registration already underway, the race has offered Malle Moto applicants a refund of their entry deposit or they can join up with a team. Other available bike categories include those separated by engine size (Standard for 250–600cc and Big Bike for 601–1300cc), a class for female riders, and the Veterans Cup for those over the age of fifty.
“The extreme conditions of the MDC2023 were felt hardest by the Malle Moto riders,” reads a statement from the race. “A whole day on the bike and then tinkering late into the evening in extreme conditions. Without the assistance of a team, this proved unjustifiable for some participants in this category.”
Airbag vests have also been made mandatory for all bike riders.
The 2024 Morocco Desert Challenge will run from 13 to 20 April. Eight stages long, it begins in Agadir and ends in Saïdia.