Belgian driver Gregoire de Mevius has won the Rallye International du Maroc by just under five minutes in his Kronos Racing Porsche 911, having turned round the 34-second deficit with which he started the final day.

In second place was Michele Mouton, the most successful lady in the history of the World Rally Championship, driving a Porsche 911 run by Tuthill Porsche. Completing the podium was South African Geoff Bell, in another Tuthill Porsche.

The rally ended with a thrilling finale after De Mevius, who had led from the very beginning, lost more than 20 minutes with a broken driveshaft on Friday morning. This allowed Mouton, who had lost a similar amount of time with a broken brake calliper on the very first day, into a slender lead.

She started the final day with just a half-minute advantage, but De Mevius mounted an unstoppable fightback, winning the first stage of the day by nearly two minutes. From then on he didn't look back, completing the rally by winning all three stages of the final day. In total, De Mevius claimed nine of the 20 stages while Mouton won six. Bell won two stages while the only other stage winner was the 1979 World Rally Champion Bjorn Waldegaard, at the wheel of a Peugeot 504 V6 owned by former Maroc winner Jean-Pierre Nicolas.

The first stage of the final day was run entirely on asphalt, adding another twist to the tale. The 35-kilometre section was extremely slippery because all the competitors were running on gravel tyres, and there were plenty of loose stones by the side of the road.

"I really needed to push there, so we went as hard as we could," said De Mevius. "It wasn't easy as we were sideways all the time but maybe it was there that we won the rally. It was also thanks to my co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, because he was able to fix the broken driveshaft that we had yesterday. If it had just been me, then I would have stood no chance of doing it! But in the end it all went well and of course I am very happy to win. It's been a fantastic event; we've had a great time."

Mouton regretted her tyre choice on the opening asphalt stage. "We had the wide tyre and that was definitely a bad idea," she said. "It was so, so slippery, which meant that I preferred to back off. It was great to lead, but there was no point to take any risks. It's been a really tough week and I can certainly feel it now!"

Bell, who ran as high as second overall, was extremely encouraged by his performance on the event, which he completed without any problems. "We've managed to steer clear of trouble, which is crucial here, and we've really enjoyed ourselves," he pointed out. "It's also been a big privilege to compete against drivers of the calibre of Michele and Gregoire."

This year's Rallye International du Maroc, which took in a total route of 2800 kilometres, went from Marrakech to Ouarzazate to Foum Zguid to Agadir and then back to Marrakech, crossing the length and breadth of the country. Competitors witnessed some breathtaking scenery, with the route climbing to more than 2000 metres in altitude over the Atlas Mountains, as well as blasting through barren desert landscapes. There were rocky roads and smooth ones, heavy rain and blistering sunshine, flat-out straights and twisty sections, five star hotels and a Berber-style bivouac under the stars.

More than anything else, the revival of the Rallye International du Maroc for the first time in more than 20 years celebrated diversity. The huge variety of the roads was also reflected in the wide range of competitors. As well as former champions, one of the people taking part was Scotland's Derek Melville, for whom Maroc was his very first rally. Melville was delighted by his eventual ninth place finish, having experienced all the highs and lows that the sport has to offer.

"It's been the most incredible adventure," he said. "We've had our ups and downs and we've also got lost a couple of times, but it's been an amazing experience. It's a very tough event, but really anybody can come and do it, which is one of the things that appealed to me."

Porsche was the most well-represented manufacturer in Morocco, with eight cars on the entry list, but the second best represented manufacturer was Citroen. A total of four Citroens started the event, including three examples of the DS (one of which was a rare short-wheelbase version) and an SM. The highest-placed Citroen was the short DS of Frederic Daunat, which finished seventh. Two former Citroen factory drivers, Philippe Wambergue and Bob Neyret, rounded off the list of finishers.

Waldegaard was affected by ongoing mechanical issues but still managed to bring his car home 13th overall, having enjoyed the social side of the event as much as the competition. "For the last few days we decided just to do one stage a day in order to bring the car home, but that meant that we had more time to enjoy the scenery and the nice atmosphere," he said. "Morocco is a very nice country and this is a real flavour of how rallying used to be."

Event organiser Paul-Eric Jarry, a keen rallyman himself and the owner of the Porsche that Mouton was driving, concluded: "We set out with this vision of recapturing the golden age of the Rallye International du Maroc and I think we have succeeded. We benefited from some top quality drivers on the entry list and I would like to thank everyone for coming, as well as all the other people from Morocco and elsewhere who have supported our event. Our plan is to make this rally a regular fixture, alternating with the East African Safari Rally, and I believe that we have laid some very solid foundations for the future over the last week."

Provisional top 10 classification after day seven:

1 Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Nicolas Gilsoul (B) Porsche 911 14h45m01s
2 Michele Mouton (F)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Porsche 911 14h49m47s
3 Geoff Bell (ZA)/Tim Challen (EAK) Porsche 911 15h04m15s
4 John Lloyd (GB)/Adrian Cavenagh (GB) Ford Escort 16h10m34s
5 Steve Troman (GB)/Calvin Cooledge (GB) Porsche 911 16h26m45s
6 Jac Nelleman (DK)/Joseph Huber (CH) Porsche 911 18h01m31s
7 Frederic Daunat (F)/Guy Chirqui (F) Citroen DS 18h14m09s
8 Aslam Khan (EAK)/Ashard Khan (EAK) Ford Escort 20h12m55s
9 Derek Melville (GB)/Peter Lythell (GB) Porsche 911 21h18m24s
10 Albert Michiels (B)/Patrick de Coninck (B) Porsche 911 22h07m48s

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