Rallye Maroc Classic: Drivers challenged by heavy rain
Heavy rainfall put drivers to the test on the first leg of the Rallye Maroc Classic. Rafael Cerezo, an experienced participant who is tackling the Route du Coeur for the 14th time, tells us how he got on in his Jaguar XK 140.
Q: Mr. Cerezo, starting as number two you had a pole position for this 20th Rallye du Maroc – did you have a good start this morning?
The start was wonderful. The cars were ready and shining brightly after last night’s rain. The weather wasn’t too bad, but ominous looking clouds in the south did not bode well for the afternoon. The car started with a beautiful rumbling sound and we were off at 10.01 am. There were no regularity tests in the morning so we had a wonderful leisurely drive to Oualidia – a quaint town on the coast by a lovely secluded bay. We lunched there at the Araignée Gourmand, a must whenever we do this route. We ate lobster, sea urchins, king crab… superb!
Q: Driving in Morocco is not like driving in Europe. Were there any difficulties during the first leg between Casablanca and Essaquira?
The roads were generally good, not too much traffic, not many towns. It’s difficult when you have to drive through a market, or get through herds of camels or goats. None of those today though. Drivers are also very polite in general. Even on the narrower roads they would make way for our car. The main problem was the second regularity test this afternoon. It poured with rain for 26 kilometers. It became difficult to see the road, which had become a small river in places, and having to change average speeds twice made it a stressful afternoon.
Q: You drive a Jaguar XK 140. Having completed the first 380 kilometers, is it living up to your expectations?
Today it certainly did. I used to come with different cars only to find new problems each year. Now I come every year with this Jaguar and modify bits after each rally. For example, last year I had problems with the fuel pump overheating… so, now I carry a two-pump circuit so I can switch from one to the other. I’ve not had to try it so far… but I hope it works. She (the Jaguar) is a very smooth and elegant machine. She’s comfortable, racy, but manageable. Handles extremely well on both the straight and the bends. I guess I’m very proud of the fact that even 10 years after she was restored, she keeps looking and handling brilliantly! Today she ran very smoothly over the whole 380 kilometers without a hitch.
Q: You are an experienced and passionate rallye driver. What do you like most here in Morocco?
I’ve been coming to this rally for the past 14 years, ever since my friend Elmar Wiederin introduced it to me. Morocco was full of surprises for me the first time I came. Much greener than I expected, extremely varied scenery, and wonderful people. The contrasts are amazing ….from the browns of the desert to the greens of the north; the blues of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean to the white snow of the Atlas Mountains. The people too: from the Berbers and Tuaregs of the hills and the desert to the cosmopolitan crowds in the main cities; and not forgetting Fez’s spiritual atmosphere. I’ve seen an amazing development year after year for the last 14 years: infrastructure, education, health. It’s a wonderful place to meet wonderful people and create wonderful memories.
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