London to Casablanca 2009
A Classic in the making
We were the first to organise a rally in Morocco for Historic cars back in 1993 and have returned several times since. The London-Casablanca promises to be the best yet. We have discovered a maze of roads on the edge of the Atlas Mountains previously considered impossible for classic cars – goat trails reserved for 4x4s – but now that the Morocco Government have covered this in tarmac, we can now explore a freshly-opened up region.
Wild, empty, with stunning scenery. As an added bonus, three super-long mountain climbs, to be run “hillclimb fashion”, with amazing views when we stop at the summit. Unforgettable stuff.
Morocco Route Survey (April 2009):
We found some breathtaking, stunning scenery. Until now, we thought you had to go to the likes of Mongolia, or, South Africa, for wild, empty roads with surrounding scenery that takes your breath away.
Our trip to Morocco started off well. First, we decided to move the first Base Camp to a hotel on the outskirts of Meknes rather than Tangier to allow easier access to the fantastic road network in this part of the country. We drove south and west from here, and discovered an area of rolling hills, long open bends down a twisty road and didn’t see another car for an hour or so…and soon we were into a vast empty area, totally free of traffic and locals. It was so good, we decided to make a circuit and return the rally to Meknes, so, this becomes a two night stay – a chance to leave your luggage in your room and just enjoy a good, long, challenging day on good-quality tarmac roads.
It can’t get any better than this, we thought to ourselves, as we struck out through the Cedar forests south of Ifrane to climb up onto the Atlas Mountain plateau. Snow capped mountains in the distance, the roads become even more remote. It was here that we found that the two maps we equipped ourselves with were totally useless – the roads we were finding didn’t match up to anything on the map. So, we have decided to make the entire Morocco Section an ALL Tulip Road book. We have made detailed notes for you – we were slightly disappointed at this as we originally thought a map-section would be good to throw at you, but the downside of all these new roads is that they don’t officially exist, not as far as the map makers are concerned. So, we were left with no alternative.
We arrived in the early evening in the dusty carpet town of Midelt, after a good day – but many frustrations of exploring a number of different roads, before we could settle on the best of the options. After a night in Midelt, we set out early and hammered down an empty main road for an hour, re-fuelled at Rich, which proved a good move, as here we swung right and headed West into a totally new area for us.
We brought the first Historic Rally to Morocco in 1993, and have returned with two Classic Marathons, two Sahara Challenges, and two World Cup Rallies as well as a section of the Around the World in 80 Days nine years ago, so thought we had got a good grip of what Morocco has to offer. But, it proves time and time again to be a land full of surprises, and this is exactly how this day was to turn out…as we ran West, with the early morning sun behind us, the road became narrower, we left a string of villages behind, crossed a small stream, then another, and the road became more and more twisty. We entered a vast valley, with strange rock formations that weaved different coloured layers in high cliffs on either side, steadily closing in on us. You have to see the Grand Canyon, or, the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, to appreciate the grandeur of what we were now discovering – except in those two places you can’t drive a car down the valley floor. More river crossings, and as we splashed our way west, the scenery just got better and better.
So far, we had been pleased with the number of sections that had come up which suggested they were just made for rally Time Trials, and today was to prove an absolute winner on that front. We ended the day in the tiny, narrow gap between two 300ft cliffs at Todra Gorge, and emerged on a twisty ribbon of tarmac that twists between palm trees to emerge on the road for Ouarzazate, so, feeling like a beer and a steak, we headed for the Berber Palace Hotel on the edge of town. A long day – but simply one of the finest days driving we have ever encountered, and certainly the best day of Morocco Rallying we have ever put on. Over a few bottles of “Casablanca”, Kim and I reflected that when we set out of Meknes, we thought to ourselves, “it can’t get better than this” but the run down two long empty valleys that took us down from the Atlas Mountains had just been one of the finest drives we could remember.
Now we were on very familiar ground, the bits of Morocco we know best, and we left Ouarzazate feeling that from here on, “it’s all downhill”. Again, we were to square up to a day full of surprises. After an hour on the road to Marrakesh we turned off, and explored an area recently given a layer of tarmac that climbs up the side of a mountain with an endless string of hairpin bends…forget the Stelvio and the Turini, the mountains here make anything in the Alpes appear like mole-hills. We found a spot that will make an unforgettable mid-morning coffee stop with stunning views, and then made our way back down. We found two valleys like this before lunch, a chance to escape, enjoy a demanding, challenging, gut-wrenching Time-Trial to the top of a remote mountain, and then come back down again.
By the way, this event is not just about hill-climbs, or, should we say, mountain climbs, there are downhill sections as well, and those in smaller more agile cars will find that things even out, over the course of the event.
We then took the road to the awesome Tizi-n’Test, which twists and turns for what seems like forever…we took our time on this, in fact we spent over an hour getting to the summit. And that was resisting the temptation for an earthenware pot of fresh lemon juice and an omelette on a platter at the tiny café at the top.
Now it really was downhill all the way to Marrakesh. We sat by the pool, downed another bottle or two of the local “Casablanca” beer, and decided that this place is so good, so different from anywhere else on earth, that we didn’t really want to move. From here, there are some great rally roads, all that make nice loops out, and back again, so, why go any further?
We have re-jigged the schedule and put the rally into Marrakesh for three whole nights. The final two days of rallying involve night stops. We can then throw in a third night, for those who want to stay on, as we are sure those driving back would want to take full advantage of a rest-day to have our Sweep mechanics fettle cars, or, just take a day off and go shopping in the local Souk market-place, and sample some of the local life before returning to the real world.
Alternative Start: We have been asked by several crews on the Continent if they can join us in Spain and miss the UK start – so, we are putting up the Morocco Trophy, a separate category, for crews who want to join us later, it will shorten their event by 3 days. Savings on hotels and cross-channel ferries is being worked out by Heidi – email the Rally Office for more details.
The start is in Kent very close to the first of two Time-Trials in the Kent woods before a short run to Dover. After the Channel Crossing, our first overnight stop is at Le Mans. France and Spain will be more of a touring-nature, but once into Morocco, we are running under a permit from the Royal Morocco Motor Federation, and entrants should be under no illusion that this is a timed Rally.
How to I get home?
From Marrakesh you can cross back into Spain in a day and make a fair bit of headway before feeling the need to stop. Putting your car on a truck from the likes of Jeremy Barker at CARS UK at Malaga, and then flying home, is one option for those who don’t want to drive back.
Can we fly home from Morocco?
One of you can do that, the other, who had all the car details like chassis number written into his/her passport, has to return with the car to Tangier and go back out of the country cancelling the stamps put into your passport. What you can NOT do is fly in two crew members to take out the car while both you and your navigator fly out of Morocco. A formal Carnet de Passage for temporary import is NOT required for Morocco, and EU residents do not need a visa. The entire event can be enjoyed from start to returning to the UK quite easily within 14-driving days.
Anyone interested in this event and preparing a car should obtain a copy of “How To Prepare A Successful Low-Cost Rallycar” written by Philip Young and published by Veloce Publishing of Dorchester, Dorset, priced £16.95, available from December 22 2008. A number of photographs from past Morocco-Rallies as well as the tips like exhausts, radiator mountings, waterproofing and under-body protection came out of lessons learned from our experiences in Morocco.
Entry fees are as set out on the back of the entry form and start at £6,000. Note the ferry crossing to Tangier is a return ticket, for car and crew. The maximum number of cars is likely to be set at 45, as some of the overnight stops are very small. Entries are decided on a first-come, first-served basis. The entry-form will be available from December 6th.
Twin/double room with breakfast and 9 evening meals with parking for 10 nights. Route instructions, medical crew, mobile mechanical-workshop sweeps. Cross channel ferry ticket (one way), and return crossing for car and crew Algericas-Tangiers, plus third-party vehicle insurance for Morocco. Gala prize-giving dinner. “One-stop-shopping” administration service from the Rally Office.
Car cut-off dates:
Vintage Category for pre-1941 model types. Classics Category, with classes on engine size, for model-types in production prior to January 1971.