Key points :
- At the start of the Dakar in Lima, 46 of the bikers and quad riders had taken part in the 2017 edition of the Merzouga Rally. 26 of them completed the rally in Córdoba.
- At the forefront of the race, the newcomers shone especially brightly: Oriol Mena was the leading rookie by a long way on the bikes, while Nicolas Cavigliasso celebrated his debut on the Dakar with second place in the quad category.
For many riders, the Merzouga Rally is an opportunity to discover navigation, dunes and endurance; in short, everything that defines and sets apart rally-raids from other motor-sport disciplines. Some of these riders even use this experience as a springboard and go on to tackle the challenge of the Dakar. Whether more or less experienced, successful or haunted by bad luck, those inspired by Morocco met with a wide range of fortunes on the 40th edition of the Dakar, starting with the Merzouga Rally winner, Xavier de Soultrait. He was one of the main pace-setters on the Peruvian part of the race, before withdrawing after a fall in Bolivia. Nevertheless, the top 10 in the general standings notably included three riders who shone on the Merzouga Rally: Gerard Farrés (2nd in Morocco and 5th in Córdoba), Oriol Mena who finished as the best rookie in 2018 (12th / 7th) and Daniel Oliveras (13th / 9th). The winner of the Dakar Challenge, Polish rider Maciej Giemza, achieved his goal of completing the rally, by reaching Córdoba in 24th place. Just ahead of him, Italy’s Maurizio Gerini can count himself among the ranks of amateurs to have enjoyed success on their very first attempt on the Dakar: 22nd and winner of the marathon category.
As for the quads, the end of race report was even more glowing, even if nobody was able to contest the superiority of Ignacio Casale, leader from the first to last day of the Dakar. However, his two closest pursuers in the general standings had learned well from the lessons received on their journey through the Sahara. Nicolas Cavigliasso, who won in North Africa last spring, triumphed on two stages in Bolivia and Argentina, to finish his first Dakar in 2nd position. Jeremías González Ferioli, who exited the race the day before the finish on the Merzouga Rally, managed to go the distance this time to grab 3rd position, also picking up two stage victories on his way. A little further back, but no less valiantly, Czech rider Olga Rouckova, the sole lady present in the quad category on the Dakar, also began her season on the Merzouga Rally.