Merzouga Rally: the favourites
At the start of the 7th edition of the rally six riders who finished in the top 10 of the 2016 Dakar. But if the level of the Pro is high, there is a lot of expectations also for the young talents of the New Dakar Generation.
There is a lot of expectations for the Afriquia Merzouga Rally that sees at the start 122 competitors among bikes, quads and SSV.
The riders’ line up is really interesting starting from the bike Pro Category and the runner-up in this year’s Dakar, Stefan Svitko. The KTM rider will use the experience gained last year at Merzouga, when he finished third behind Gerard Farres and the winner Alessandro Botturi, to aim at the victory. Svitko will fight with the Honda factory riders Kevin Benavides (the great revelation of this year’s Dakar with a superb 4th place) and Ricky Brabec (9th at his debut in January).
Yamaha factory rider Helder Rodrigues, winner of the first edition of the Merzouga Rally in 2010 and 5th in the 2016 Dakar, will be another strong contender for the victory together with his teammate Adrien Van Beveren (6th in this year’s Dakar and 7th at his debut at Merzouga last October). Gerard Farres (Himoinsa Racing, 8th in the 2016 Dakar), Ruben Faria (Husqvarna Factory racing) and CS Santosh (Hero Motorsport) complete the list of the favourite. To signal also the return of the Italian Luca Manca on the International rally raids.
But if the Pro have on their side the experience gained on several Dakar participations, the young talents are there to surprise. Who will shine among the rookies? There is a long list of guys with high hopes starting with the multiple Portuguese Motocross and Supercross Champion Joaquim Rodrigues, at his debut in the rally-raid discipline with the Indian Giant Hero, and the fellow countryman Baja and Enduro Champion David Megre. A special attention goes also to the French Arnold Brucy, son of rally man Jean Brucy, Alessandro Ruoso, the Italian Baja World Champion in 2013 - 2014, the 4-time Bolivian Motocross champion Walter Nosiglia who will compete at Merzouga with his father and 3 time national Motorcross Champion Daniel Nosiglia and Ibrahim Alrubaian from Kuwait, just to mention some names. The target is only one: winning the Dakar challenge and gain the participation to the Dakar 2017!
In the quad category, the winner of the Merzouga Rally 2015 Diego Ortega Gil will try to defend the title from the veteran Josef Machacek, who returns competing in quad after winning the Dakar in the quad class 5 times both in Africa and on the first edition in South America. At the start also the 2015 FIM Baja World champion Alexandre Giroud, the 24 year Bolivian Suany Martínez, who will compete with his father Leonardo, the Spanish Jose Luis Espinosa, the Italian Giovanni Stefani, and many others who will fight for the victory.
At the start of the Merzouga Rally since its first edition, the AT4R team of Frederic Henrichy – Eric Bersey, winners of the SSV class in the Pro Lite category in 2014 and 2015 will try to repeat themselves also this year. It won’t be easy as the level of the 16 teams is really high with experienced crews such as los Amigos (Abel-Carillero and Abel-Manez), the Spanish crew of Delfi Sport (Medero-Ventaja), the other AT4R team (Roustan-Pernot), the Italian Checco Tonetti (winner of the Pro Rally category in 2015) who teams up with the experience co-pilot Fina Roman, as well as the two Kreisberger crews. Two the female SSV crews this year: Kreisberger Sophie and Jade et les Roses du Desert Girard Michelle et Celia Abrantes.
Everything is ready for the Afriquia Merzouga Rally. The teams and the vehicles are already on their way to Morocco for the first day of administration and technical checks that will take place on May 21st.