Thursday 3rd October, 2019 – Fes, Morocco.
This morning started nice and relaxing – we had coffee and sat around for an hour or so.
And then the mayhem started!
Getting through the administration for the Rallye du Maroc took an hour and a half, going from desk to desk. They do not leave any stone unturned, and it was like being grilled in a courtroom by 12 separate judges – in French! Luckily Tess was with us and helped us through.
The room was packed with the best in the world but the moment Toby Price arrived all the attention turned to him. He is one of the nicest people you could meet and makes time to talk to everybody.
Once we were through our administration process, they told us we had 45 minutes to have our bikes back at the hotel for the technical inspection!
Well, it’s about a 20-minute cab ride to where our bikes are stored and Pablo and I madly tried to find a cab.
Eventually, we got one but the driver took us in the opposite direction as he had no understanding of English. He was also stopping to take other passengers in the front with him and then would drop them off. We finally showed him on Google maps where we needed to be and convinced him to change direction.
I grabbed my helmet and chest protector and jumped on my bike for the ride back to the Marriot. It was absolute chaos in the Fes traffic and I was sure I was going to get hit by a car.
Tess was waiting for me at the Marriot with my bike numbers and the technical inspection started. There were 4 different stations to pass through and all was good until the last one.
My Sherco 450 is an enduro bike with limited fuel range and is entered in the Enduro Cup Class. It has a custom rally fairing that also holds my navigation equipment, and we had emailed the organiser in August to make sure this was ok. The response was “Yes ok”.
But the FIM technical scrutineer did not pass my bike with the rally fairing despite the email from the organisers.
They have given me an extension until 9 am tomorrow to have the bike returned to its original factory specifications.
This is a huge problem as all the original parts are in Switzerland, and we are hoping to find another team with parts we can use or borrow.
After 4 hours of searching, we found an original Sherco headlight so the work could begin to re-configure my bike in time for tomorrow’s deadline.
But before taking the bike back to work on it we decided to have a quick lunch at the Marriot.
Fernando Alonso was at the table next to us. He is giving rally racing a go and is considering racing in the Dakar next year, but says he will decide after competing in Rallye du Maroc. He will be driving for Toyota. It’s great to have such high calibre people around us, and like Toby he also seemed like a pretty nice guy.
After lunch, it was time to get the bike back. That made it the second time today I had to ride through Fes. I’ve ridden through a lot of crazy cities – Bangkok, Bali, Athens, Ulan Bataar, Valencia – but Fes is the one that has challenged me the most.
Just 7km on a motorbike took me 30 minutes and the trip is almost in a straight line! I even tried the footpath at one stage but almost had a head-on with another bike.
We have a riders briefing tonight at 9 pm and then another briefing straight after that on how to operate the ERTF tracking system fitted to the bikes and vehicles.
Today has been a pretty stressful day with the bike not passing technical over something we had been told was OK. Hernan was feeling quite bad about the whole situation too, as we did discuss converting the bike back to factory specifications before coming to Africa.
If I had the extra fuel range required I could have jumped up into the Rally FIM class, but it would have cost me an extra 3500 Euro.
But everyone we approached for help, from the top teams and riders down to Africans on the street, all wanted to help us in some way to get the bike sorted for tomorrow.
And it should now be all good for tomorrow morning, then the Prologue tomorrow afternoon.