A combination of several circumstances resulted in a drastic reduction in the quality of the entry for this year’s Morocco Rally. Normally well supported by the French manufacturers, the event only attracted Alpine-Renault this time, the Dieppe-based team running away with victory without too much effort. Citroen used to work on the principle that their cars would show up best on the rougher events, and this, coupled with the publicity which the Morocco Rally received in France, was the main reason for always going to Morocco. But Citroen has now called a halt to its competitions programme, has sold the rally-prepared cars which were “in stock”, and is now concentrating on such exercises as the Raid Afrique. a journey from France down into West Africa and back (via the Sahara) for selected young drivers in variants of the versatile little 2cv.
Peugeot doesn’t really have a car which can compete successfully with the more agile, lighter and more powerful vehicles used by the regular rally teams, but on events where reliability is more important than sheer power they have, in recent years, put in teams of cars. Morocco was always top of the list, followed by events in other countries with strong links with France such as the Bandama Rally in the Ivory Coast. But this year the team made a tremendous, six-car effort to win the Safari, an effort which failed disastrously. The proximity of the Safari to the Morocco Rally, and the feeling of despondency which must have existed in the Peugeot team after the Kenyan expedition resulted in no works Peugeots turning up in Morocco, although several private ones took part and finished creditably.
Another reason for the little factory interest in the event may have been its absence from the list of qualifiers in the 1974 World Rally Championship. At the end of last year the CSI dropped the event from that series on the rather feeble grounds that the orpnisers had not applied for championship’status within the specified period. For next year the event will certainly be back in, for the CSI now freely admits that it is far easier to run a fast, lough, relentless rally in the continent of Africa than it is in traffic-ridden Europe.
The Alpine-Renault team consisted of two Alpine A110 Berlinettes and two Renault R17s, the same strength of side which they had in the Safari. World Championship points do not concern Alpine this year after having won the series last year, but they are very much concerned with the prestige events of the world and those which will bring greatest publicity. Of the two Alpines, that of Bernard Darniche and Alain Mahe retired in the first of four legs with a broken gearbox, and of the two R17s that of Jean-Francois Piot and Jean de Alexandris retired in the third leg with suspension failure after having led for a while. The remaining Alpine of Jean-Pierre Nisolas and Christian Delferrier became outright winner and the remaining R17 of Jean-Luc Tharier and Michel Vial was second. Two Alpines and a Renault 12 Gordini also occupied the next three places, for the team had revitalised their practice cars before the rally started and had given them on loan to descrying private drivers, by prior arrangement.
The World Cup Rally had passed through Morocco only a week before, but there seemed to have been little enthusiasm for that event compared with the vast throngs which turned out to watch the locally-organised rally. As usual, it was divided into four parts, the first being in the comparatively civilised north and the other three in the Atlas Mountains and the rocky deserts of the south. The whole event is run at a brisk pace, and the substantial rest periods between each of the legs ensures that no-one really suffers from both fatigue and the effects of the desert heat.
For next year, when it will be back in the World Championship, the Morocco Rally could well have a change of style. Certain new “roads” arc already being planned, but the big innovation under consideration is the complete scrapping of Special stages in layout of a road event in the style of the East African Safari, with timing to the nearest minute instead of the nearest second. In an event which has penalty differentials amounting to more than ten hours between first and sixteenth finishers, the abolition of second s isn’t going to make any difference. Whatever style is eventually chosen, the Morocco Rally will remain a classic endurance rally, testing skill, tenacity and reliability to the full, for many years to come, and will be more than worthy of World Championship status.
1st: J-P. Nicolas / C. Delfierrier (F) (Alpine-Renault) (0 min) 18hr. 43min. 08sec.
2nd: J-L. Therier / M. Vial (F) (Renault 17) (2 min) 18hr. 59 min. 29sec.
3rd: “Le Tahitien” / de Warren (MA) (Alpine-Renault) (1 min) 19hr. 53min. 49sec.
4th: J. Heyder-Bruckner / G. Vuillemin (MA) (Alpine-Renault) (0 min) 20hr. 12min. 52sec.
5th: J-P. Hoepfner / P. Fourton (F) (Renault 12G) (18 min) 21hr. 13min. 27sec.
6th: J-C. Bertrand / M-C. Palacia (CI) (Datsun 240Z) (49 min) 21hr. 37min. 02sec.
7th: R. Puigsegur / P. Hoerni (MA) (Peugeot 504) (38 min) 23hr. 18min. 46sec.
8th: A. Flottard / A. Choay (F) (Ford Escort) (43 min) 23hr. 25min. 43sec.
9th: J. Prive / R. Metge (F) (Range Rover) (1hr. 42min) 24hr. 08min. 26sec.
10th: P. Hadley / R. Wiltshire (GB) (Opel Ascona) (1hr. 16min) 25hr. 27min. 41sec.
11th: Boucham / Resfaoui (MA) (Peugeot 504) (1hr. 44min) 25hr. 43min. 13sec.
12th: A. Nachat / “Le Basque” (MA) (Renault 12G) (1hr. 55min.) 26hr. 05min. 07sec.
13th: P. Chamagne / A. Junguenet (F) (Peugeot 504) (2hr. 33min) 26hr. 32min. 41sec.
14th: M. Bour / R. Ferry (F) (Citroen GS) (2hr. 44min) 26hr 49min. 19sec.
15th: J. Pena / G. Rouffiance (F) (Citroen DS23) (3hr. 43min) 28hr. 23min. 24sec.
16th: P. Pottier / M. Vaderbeke (F) (Peugeot 504) (3hr. 20min) 29hr. 05min. 26sec.