Rallye du Maroc: Mechanical problems leave Eduard Pons and Marc Serra stranded 10km from the end of the race

After overcoming all kinds of setbacks during the five long stages of the Moroccan rally, the gearbox of the Can-Am gave out when the PONS team had the podium in sight.

In Eduard Pons’ preparation for the Dakar 2024, the Rallye du Maroc was one of the most important challenges due to its proximity and similarity to the toughest raid in the world. Proof of this was the large entry for the fifth and final round of the Rally-Raid World Championship, where the Lleida-born driver would have to contend with around twenty rivals in his category.

In the African event the PONS Rallysport team had two new features. The first was a change of co-driver due to the coincidence of Morocco with the sporting programme of Jaume Betriu in the world of two wheels, being Marc Serra the one in charge of temporarily replacing him. The second was the premiere of a new Can-Am unit with the latest evolutions of South Racing, the vehicle with which Pons will race the Dakar.

The raid began on Friday 13th with the 19km prologue stage, which would serve to determine the starting order. Eduard Pons managed to finish in fourth position, just 20 seconds behind the leader and with the fifth place more than a minute behind, with a positive sensation in terms of speed compared to his rivals.

However, things did not start in the best way in the first stage, the hardest in terms of mileage, with 700 km between timed and liaison stages. Pons-Serra were running in third place in the T4 category when problems with the navigation finally relegated them to ninth place, leaving a bitter aftertaste right at the start of the race.

The following two days saw better results, despite the difficulty of having to start behind several trucks that raised a lot of dust. A podium finish on stage 2, together with fifth place on the third day (despite a puncture), helped the Catalan team to climb up to the virtual top five in the general classification after almost 1000 kilometres of competition in the arid Moroccan countryside, with good performances in the dunes of the Sahara Desert. Pons-Serra punctured twice and accumulated a penalty of 20′, resulting in a loss of time that took them away from the final podium with 152kms to go on the last day in Merzouga.

With little chance of occupying the positions of honour, Eduard commented: “For the last day I have prepared a radical set-up to attack in the dunes, the most complicated of the whole race” and continued: “I feel physically strong despite the hardness of the stages, I think I have the pace to try to attack”. And he was managing to do just that, coming second as the final kilometres progressed and climbing up to third place in the category until the gearbox broke down just 9 km from the finish. A tough ending after swimming against the tide all week.

After the abandonment, the Lleida rider declared: “It seems that everything has gone the wrong way in this race. We need to make a positive reading. We know we have the pace and physically I’m strong, I understand the car well and throughout the season I’ve accumulated a lot of experience to reach the final goal of this whole adventure. We are ready for the Dakar!”.

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