With just 90 kilometres of special on the programme, the final stage of the MDC2023 started at 9.30 am under a light cloud cover. The heat was still present on this fast stage, bringing the best over the finish line after barely 1 hour.
It was not as tough as the previous days, but emotions were heavy among all participants, relieved to have crossed the finish line and proudly welcomed by their teams. Organiser Gert Duson was there to congratulate them personally: "It was a tough week in this extreme rally-raid. We had to adapt to the difficult conditions and there were many dropouts, so the finishers should be proud of their performance.
In the motorbike category, although Rui Gonçalves (#117) finished the stage just ahead of his Sherco teammate. He could not close his 6-minute gap in the overall standings and it was Lorenzo Santolino (#108) who won his first ever MDC. Pol Tarres (#113) remained on the 3rd step of the podium, surprised by his good result on the 3rd rally of his career.
In the SSV category, the battle continued to the end! Only 3 seconds separated the top 2 overall before the start.... But it was Martin van den Brink (#201) who outclassed his big rally rival. Gert Huzink (#209) finished third in this final stage, losing more than 3 seconds, enough for van den Brink to take overall victory. Rudy Roquesalane (#220) retained his 3rd place on the podium.
In the car category, France took the honours! With a flawless performance during this MDC, Mathieu Serradori (#502) won all stages and took the title at the wheel of his Century buggy. Behind him on the podium was Simon Vitse (#301), thanks to his Optimus, which held on all week without any mechanical problems. Vitse gave his MD Rallye Sport team a nice 2nd place. Another podium finish for Jérôme Pélichet (#303), who finished one step down.
In the trucks, there were no surprises. After the abandonment of Janus van Kasteren (#503), Vick Versteijnen (#508) led the category and eventually won the rally. Igor Bouwens (#501) held on and took 2nd place ahead of the Hungarian team of Karoly Fazekas (#505), who couldn't believe their luck: "If we had been told beforehand that we would finish 3rd, we would never have believed it!
This edition of the MDC was extremely difficult and tough for everyone. It was a huge challenge for the participants, their support teams and the entire organisation! Well done everyone and see you all next year!
Rui Gonçalves (#117)
"Overall it went well. I felt good throughout the rally. I got to open some stages, which was a really good experience and I learnt a lot. We worked well with the team on the bike. I am happy with what I did. Today I rode with Lorenzo, I couldn't overtake him in the overall standings anyway. I am satisfied with this last day. I want to thank everyone who supported me and congratulate the organisers of this rally. It was essential for us to come here to gain experience and get the bike over 2,000 kilometres. It was a wise choice to come and prepare for this race and test the bikes in difficult and interesting conditions."
Lorenzo Santolini (#108)
"I am very happy, both for my performance and for my team. It was a great week in a rally that is good training for me. The team worked well thanks to good organisation. All in all, it was a great rally, different from the rallies we normally do. Congratulations to the whole organisation.
Martin van den Brink (#201)
"We were only 3 seconds behind in the overall standings before the start with Gert Huzink. I'm in the T4 class, which is slower, and the start of the special was very fast, which put me at a disadvantage. Fortunately, we made up for it with the navigation and got through the dunes well to finish first, meaning we won the SSV rally.
Mathieu Serradori (#302)
"We won 8 out of 8 stages, so it was an almost perfect week. It's easy to win a stage, but it's harder to finish a rally. Loïc and the team were on top form and we worked very hard on the car. This great victory proves that the Century is reliable and remains a good alternative for rally-raid. I want to thank all my partners and wish the whole team a big congratulations.
Simon Vitse (#301)
"We just had to finish! I would like to congratulate Mathieu on his well-deserved victory. Fred and the whole team did a great job. We are competitors at heart, so we came here to get a good result and we did. We are getting better and better and this is good preparation for the Dakar.
Jérôme Pelichet (#303)
"We are very happy with our race and it was a nice reward to finish this special stage in the dunes of Merzouga. We had some stress this morning, but we finished where we belonged, on the 3rd step of the podium. It was a great rally, Pascal navigated very well, we are happy with all the work we did and relieved that we finished well."
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