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21 October

For many off-road riders, the Rallye Du Maroc is the prologue to the Dakar, the last serious rally before the infamous race through the Arabian desert. So for Chilean off-road star and member of the Honda Monster Energy Rally Team, Pablo Quintanilla, a win in the sand at Morocco gives him renewed confidence and vigour as he embarks on his last few months of training and preparation ahead of the Dakar in January. We gave him a call to find out more about his fantastic win and his expectations for the Dakar.

Pablo, congratulations on a great victory at the Rallye Du Maroc. How was the rally for you?
This rally is normally the toughest out of all of the world championships. The terrain is tough but it’s also a fast rally with many technical places and a lot of stony areas and difficult navigation between the dunes and the river beds. It’s definitely one of the toughest rallies during the year. It’s also really close to Dakar so you can see more or less where you are in the lead up to this and if you need to improve something, either in training or on the bike. So for us, it was a really good rally, and for me it was amazing to win the race. My best result before was second in 2019, so to be able to do my second race with Honda and win is important for me. It also means a lot for the guys on the team because everyone works really hard. I’m really confident and motivated for the future, for the Dakar and also for my training in the last few months here in Chile.

How similar or not is the Rallye Du Maroc to the Dakar and how important is it in the run up to that race in January?
It’s really important to do this race the right way. This edition was really similar to the Dakar Days. We started very early in the morning and we had all-day stages. It was also similar to the Dakar in terms of speed and navigation. There were a lot of fast riders, too. This was a great approach for us to know what position we are in right now and what we want to do in the lead up to the Dakar. For sure, the big goal is to win the Dakar, but for us as a team it was important to be on the podium in this race and build up our confidence on the bike and with our navigation. I did what I planned to do.

You have just returned to Chile and already you’re back into training. You don’t get much of a break. How important is it to get straight into it again so you’re ready for the Dakar?
For sure, you rest a little bit, but I already have my training plan and it’s already started. I’m really confident in what I’m doing and what I want to achieve. If you want to do a rally, you have to train hard every day. There are no rest days [laughs]. 

Is the Rallye Du Maroc more difficult than the Dakar?
No, the Dakar is still the toughest one. It’s a long race. The one in Morocco is only five days, but in Dakar we have the prologue plus 12 stages, so it’s more than double the length and time. It’s also a big race with a lot of media, so it’s more pressure. But Morocco was tough as always.

To win requires a lot of talent from you. But it’s also a team effort. How does Motul fit into that team effort and how important is it in helping you win?
It’s definitely teamwork. Everyone is working really hard to do their best. You only see the rider going through the desert, but behind that rider there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. It’s also really important that the bike works without problems to the end and to have the confidence on the bike and to push it to the limit. That’s why it’s important to have the best equipment and the best products. Of course, we already know Motul is the best lubricant. The temperature during the race was really high and the bike was always at the limit, but the bike coped well with that. We have tested in these conditions and knew our bike would be strong. 

The Dakar is great preparation for you as a rider, but does it give you a chance to discover and improve areas of the bike?
We have some changes in mind. Throughout the year, we’re constantly training and testing. But racing is always different. This is my first year with the team but we’re always working to improve the bike. In racing, the level is high and so is the pressure, so it was good to see we are heading in the right direction. We will make some changes of course, but those will be minor. The programme is strong, the team is strong and our vision is really clear on what we have to work on for the Dakar. 

© Pictures: HRC Motors

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