World Rally-Raid Championship

Gert Duson: 2024 Morocco Desert Challenge “a total difference from last year’s unfortunate edition”

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Credit: Yamaha Racing

After the 2023 Morocco Desert Challenge was overshadowed by the deaths of Laurent Lichtleuchter and Bram van der Wouden, race organisers led by director Gert Duson were obviously keen on ensuring a repeat does not happen in 2024. To his relief, the race proceeded with little incident.

For 2024, the MDC mandated all competitors to submit a passing cardiac test within the prior year while bike racers must wear an airbag vest and be evaluated in the refuel section at each stage. The Malle Moto class for solo bike competitors was also dropped. These changes were in response to van der Wouden’s passing, being a solo rider who died from heat stroke.

Lichtleuchter, a co-driver, died when his car was hit by another and burst into flames. To reduce the risk of this happening again, the MDC capped the top speed for side-by-side vehicles to 135 km/h. The grid was also limited to 200 at most from 300.

The new policies seemed to pay off quite well in the end.

“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves,” reads a letter from Duson. “No loops, but a linear race of 3000 kilometers with seven different bivouacs demanded a lot from the racers, assistance teams, and the organisation. However, the job is done, and at the finish line, all you could see were happy faces. A total difference from last year’s unfortunate edition, where the rally struggled with a heat wave and several serious accidents.

“The many additional safety measures (airbag vests, early starts, limiting the number of race vehicles, medical tests, etc.) and pleasant temperatures ensured that the sixteen-member medical team did not have to perform life-saving interventions this year and that physical damage was limited to a broken collarbone and painful knee for two motorcyclists. An organiser couldn’t wish for better news.”

The race ran from Agadir to Ain Bni Mathar across eight stages totalling 1,969 kilometres in Selective Sections. Pol Tarrés won the overall for Bikes while Mitchel van den Brink and Mathieu Serradori respectively defended their SSV and Cars wins. Igor Bouwens topped the Truck category.

The 2025 Morocco Desert Challenge will be the tenth edition, scheduled for 3 to 12 April.

“To my loyal organising team: you were outstanding! Your work ethic was unparalleled, your performance excellent, and your enthusiasm infectious. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” continued Duson.

“And finally, to all the participants: once again, you have shown why the MDC is the most beautiful and unique rally-raid: on the race track, you fought for the best position in the standings, yet everyone helped each other to reach the finish line together. And in the bivouac, our micro-cosmos of thirty-one nationalities, everyone supported each other, and there was always time for a drink at the end of the day. This is what we stand for, this is what rally-raid stands for. Hence our hashtag #WeAreRally.

“The Morocco Desert Challenge 2024 has come to an end, and we are already looking forward to 2025 when we will celebrate our tenth MDC, with a unique route. Save the date already: 3–12 April 2025.

“Hopefully, with you among us.”

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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