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AMV Shamrock Rally: Teams are preparing for french Amateur Rally.

A few weeks before the start of the AMV Shamrock-Rally du Maroc that will take place around Laâyoune on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and on the edge of the Sahara, preparation is well underway. As far as the organisation is concerned, the course is done and everything is ready. Participants will enjoy all the diversity of a genuine African rally. Professionals and amateurs from Europe, Africa and North America are all going to experience an intense week full of amazing emotions and sensations.

More than ever before the AMV Shamrock-Rally du Maroc can boast about being a truly international event. Registration closes on 4th September, and to date in the motorbike category many different nationalities will be represented. The bike rally regulars, French, Spanish and British, will share the limelight with competitors who have come from farther afield, Canada and the United States, and also nearby as several Moroccan bikers will be racing on their home turf. For the cars, it’s the same state of affairs as the French, Spanish and Portuguese pilots will battle it out against competitors from chillier climes, Russia for example. The 2008 vintage has a resolutely international flavour!

Whether bikers or drivers, famous or anonymous, the old desert dogs will rub tyres with rally neophytes. A few weeks prior to departure, a few of them revealed their state of mind and the targets they have set themselves….

A Corsican from the Ajaccio region, Michaël Pisano began his rally raid career in 2007. He was immediately noticed in his first event and notched up a magnificent 2nd place in the Tunisia Rally last May. On his Yamaha 450, he is now attacking the Morocco Rally. He is determined to take part in a major event in January 2009 in South America or in Africa and sees the 2008 AMV Shamrock-Morocco Rally as ideal preparation.

"I’ve never taken part in the Shamrock and my only experience in Morocco was an endurance event in February this year. The terrain I’ve been able to see in Morocco looks more like Corsica than the terrain I raced on in Tunisia where the special courses were really fast. If the course has twists and turns and is technical I’ll be comfortable on my 450. But it looks like the sand will have the upper hand. We’ll see. I need to improve my navigation and this is the perfect opportunity for that. Whatever happens, I’m going to make every effort to get to the end of the course and achieve the best possible result. I have kept in good shape over the summer and have been training every day - I’m really motivated. My tough physical preparation will start on 1st September, but to keep fit I’ve been doing lots of road cycling, rowing and motocross. Since the the Tunisia rally, I’ve cycled 4,000km."

Some drivers need no introduction and considering the extent of his experience, Etienne Smulevici is one of them. He has taken part in a total of 70 rally raid events and has the absolute record for Dakar Rally finishes; in 25 Dakar rallies, this man from Calvados has finished 19 times. After 25 seasons in a four wheel drive, Etienne recently started a "new career" in a two wheel-drive with an SMG buggy. By finishing 9th in the 2008 Transoriental with a podium position in the two wheel-drive category, this new career on a significantly different vehicle seems to be off to a great start.

"I’m going to Morocco for the course most of all. When you compete, the result is always the objective but I always try and stay humble. That’s why, knowing Morocco as I do, I am going to be very humble. I’m going to Morocco to have fun but also to practise with my new navigator Jean Jacques Martinez who will co-pilot with me in the next Dakar Rally. Morocco will be our first event together. I have never taken part in the Shamrock and I have never raced on this kind of course so I’m looking forward to it. We don’t need to work like mad preparing our car because it is almost ready for South America. We didn’t run into any problems on the Transoriental. In Morocco, we’ll mainly be fine-tuning the driving comfort and the co-piloting, keeping in mind our objective of doing well at the finish."

Over the years, Ronan Chabot has achieved a great deal in rally raids. A talented pilot and CEO of Toys Motors (a group of 10 Toyota dealers) in the Sables d’Olonne (Pays de la Loire), Ronan Chabot was the winner of the 2005 All-Terrain Rallies World Cup in the Production category (T2). Now an essential competitor in any raid, the Chabot-Pillot crew excelled recently on the other side of the planet by finishing 6th overall and first in T2 in the Transoriental, from Saint Petersburg to Beijing. Determination, passion and pleasure are the leitmotivs of this pilot, experienced on the Moroccan tracks.

"Taking part in an NPO rally is always a great pleasure and I really enjoy this event very much. And this year, Morocco is the ideal place to prepare for our next Dakar Rally. It’s almost the last possible date on the calendar as the vehicles will be setting off early for South America. We haven’t driven that much this season and Morocco is a rich terrain where there is always lots of work to be done and progress to be made. Our totally new Land Cruiser was ready in January 2008 and on the technical side we have made few changes. We improved a few things in the suspension but nothing major because our car is pretty reliable and accurate. In any case, in the T2 category, developments are quite limited. I really like this category and that’s why I’m going to go after a win for Production again. I would describe our participation in the AMV Shamrock - Morocco Rally as half pleasure and half preparation."

One of the competitors to come rather a long way is Ken Wortman, 46 years old, a Canadian bike rider who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is a first for this bike enthusiast who is burning up with excitement to discover the African terrain.

"It’ll be my first rally of this particular type. I’ve done lots of bike races in my life, motocross, endurance, allterrain, but never a rally either in Africa or elsewhere. All-terrain has always been my passion but I have never had the opportunity or the privilege to take part in a race like this one. I ride for pleasure and my only African experience has been in South Africa so I don’t know North Africa at all. I chose the AMV Shamrock - Morocco Rally because I’d heard so many positive things about the Tunisia Rally and seeing as it’s the same organiser, I thought it would be a great idea to try out Morocco. Tunisia looked really tempting but I wasn’t ready for such a difficult event. I thought a first attempt in Morocco would be much wiser. The format with the unique central bivouac was a determining factor for my first rally because I thought the logistics would be much easier to manage. The course layout and length seem accessible for an amateur like me, over to live the African Adventure!

I’ll be riding a KTM 525 fitted with a Meca Systems kit and several other "home-made" innovations. To prepare for Morocco I’ve been riding a lot this season, more than in previous years, trying to work on the bike’s endurance. For the last six months I’ve been following a nutritional and fitness programme to get ready for the big day! I believe that the financial investment deserves a certain physical commitment so that I can give the best of myself right up to the finish line. It would be a shame to retire because of fatigue. I need to be at the top of my form! I’ve been training hard and now I can run 10km in 30 minutes - not bad at all!!
So, preparations for this rally have had a positive effect on my health and my mental state. It has also excited my competitive biking spirit! Today I am in better shape than when I was a young man! My end objective for this event is to finish the race, live a fantastic experience and meet other competitors!"

NPO is offering competitors’ families, friends and partners to join them for the El-Aaiun rally and discover the marvels of Southern Morocco, sharing the emotions that such a convivial sporting adventure arouses. For the last three days of the rally, guests can enjoy the race and also other activities on the shores of the Atlantic. They can try out a 4x4 on the track, a quad in the dunes and even practise their jet-skiing skills.

Accommodation in the 5-star bivouac involves luxurious Berber tents where every effort has been made to provide maximum comfort. This extraordinary event will end with the traditional prize-giving ceremony before a return to Paris the following day.

2008/08/29 | 11:31 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Lydie Arpizou

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