Rally legend Michele Mouton says that she can’t wait to get to Morocco after testing the Porsche that she will use on the Rallye International du Maroc. Along with a number of other stars - including former Dakar Rally winner Bruno Saby and former Maroc winner Bob Neyret - Mouton launched the event to over 30 representatives of the international media at a day in Paris.

The competitors used the gravel test stage belonging to former Citroen factory driver Philippe Wambergue, which is so demanding that it is still used by Citroen’s all-conquering World Rally Championship team today.

“It was a great experience to go to Paris and drive the car,” said Mouton, who previously drove a Porsche 911 on the London-Sydney Marathon. “It’s given me a real appetite for competition again. I don’t really know what to expect from the stages but I think they’ll be quite different from the Safari stages. My main aim is just to enjoy myself: I know it’s going to be a fantastic experience.”

An almost unprecedented collection of historic Citroens were present at the Rallye International du Maroc launch near Paris. Bob Neyret - who famously won the Rallye International du Maroc in 1969 and 1970 - brought along examples of both the long-wheelbase and short-wheelbase Citroen DS, similar to the cars that he took to victory in Maroc.

“The Citroen DS was a car that was ahead of its time,” said Neyret. “There was so much technology that other manufacturers only caught up with later. In particular, the suspension design means that the car really floats over bumps, however severe they are. This makes it absolutely ideal for rough roads such as those found in Africa and Morocco. It’s perfect for this.”

Among the drivers to try the rally DS for the first time were Michele Mouton, Richard Tuthill, and Paul-Eric Jarry: the President of the rally’s organising committee, who is set to drive a DS as course opening car in October. Completing the line-up of rarely-seen Citroens was a Maserati-engined SM rally car, one of the few remaining examples of the BX4TC Group B car (nicknamed ‘the white whale’) and an unusual Citroen DS road car with a saloon body.

Another former Maroc winner, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, says that he would like to compete on the event in the future, after clashing commitments meant that he could not take part this year.

“I would have loved to have done it,” said Nicolas, the former head of Peugeot Sport who is now the motorsport development director of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. “However, the IRC Rally of Scotland is the same weekend, so I have to be there. I’ve got great memories of Maroc; there are some really fantastic roads there. The drivers are really going to enjoy themselves.”

Even though Nicolas himself will not be able to be at the event, he will be well-represented by his Peugeot 504 Coupe, which he has lent to Bruno Saby for the rally.

“That’s a very nice car,” said Nicolas, who won the 19XX Rallye International du Maroc at the wheel of a Renault 8. “A lot has been done to the Peugeot, so it should be well-prepared for the event.”

The competition on the Rallye International du Maroc knows no bounds. One of the latest entrants for the marathon event comes from as far afield as Australia: the home of many classic targa events.

Paul Darrouzet, from Sydney in Australia, will drive an ex-Stig Blomqvist V8 Ford Capri Perana on the 9600-kilometre event, having built up plenty of experience with the car both in his native Australia and on other historic events all over the world. In particular, he has contested the East African Safari with the car – so he has some idea of what to expect from the challenge of African roads.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Darrouzet. “I’ve heard so much about this event and I hope it’s going to be well-suited to the car. The Capri is great fun to drive, and I hope that people enjoy watching it just as much as I enjoy driving it. I know that Maroc is not going to be an easy event, but if it was easy then I guess that everyone would do it!”

The Rallye International du Maroc is designed as a tribute to the golden age of rallying through Africa. As such, it has a demanding itinerary taking in a full week of competition over some epic roads. However, it is not the sort of endurance test that is a trial to complete: above all the route is designed to be enjoyable.

As Paul-Eric Jarry, the President of the rally’s organising committee put it: “It’s a tough rally, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an enjoyable event. We want to ensure that everyone comes away with some fantastic memories.”

For the full schedule and details of the event, please see the official website: www.rallyeinternationaldumaroc.com

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