At the heart of the Driver’s Camp

A few days before the start of the WTCR Oscaro season, the drivers reunited in Morocco for the customary two-day pre-season “Drivers Camp”. We were there with them.

Tuesday April 2nd, 10 am, Marrakech-Menara Airport:
At the exit of the terminal, a man holds up a sign with the names of the drivers written on it. Having barely boarded the shuttle, Dutchman Tom Coronel (Boutsen Ginion Racing), asks the driver where to buy a 4G card so he can keep on posting content to his social media, and satisfy his 193 000 followers on Instagram. After a few minutes, the shuttle driver stops outside a pharmacy. Well, a pharmacy that is also a bar, and acts as a phone store. “It’s here“, says the driver. A strange place to buy your data sim card. But after waiting for fifteen minutes, Tom Coronel obtains what he is looking for.

1 pm, Terres d’Amanar :
After arriving one by one, the drivers are reunited in the Atlas mountains, in the Terres d’Amanar complex. Well, not everybody. Thed Björk, Norbert Michelisz, Tiago Monteiro, Yvan Muller, James Thompson, Aurélien Panis, and the local star Mehdi Bennani, for each their own but valid reasons are not present. For those who are here, it is time to have lunch. An occasion for certain to meet again, for others to get acquainted. Barely seated, we see who are at ease: at one side of the table, the old ones, Tom Coronel, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gabriele Tarquini, Gianni Morbidelli or even Rob Huff are joking, showing off. On the other side, the new guys, Jean-Karl Vernay, Aurélien Comte, Mat’o Homola and Nathanaël Berthon, who are more calm and get to know each other around the carrot soup starter.

3pm :
After lunch, the serious part of the program begins. Well, serious for the most competetive guys, because a race is on the program. First a foot race, then on bike, with a archery break in the middle. The drivers have to complete this 3km track twice. And as with testing days in Barcelona, it’s John Filippi who comes first just in front of Pepe Oriola, while the two Hungarian Zengo Motorsport guys, Zsolt Szabo and Norbert Nagy rounded up the field. At the end of the race, the winners confess jokingly: “We have to admit we cheated on the bike run, we cut as to shorten the ride up the hill, we had to, we had to win it“. They didn’t have a choice because they were up against formidable opponents, the Elders of the championship, Tarquini and Morbidelli, in the form of their life.

4pm, in the Accro Park:
It’s the moment the unstoppabble Tom Coronel chooses to show off his showmanship. At the middle of a monkey bridge he agitates, laughs and tries to destabilize his comrades, at least the most scared ones. “I’m scared, i’m going back“, shouts the Dutchman, always phone in hand. One of the on-site personnel tells him to stop and put his phone in his pocket. No can do, the other drivers looks on amusingly while Coronel keeps the show going on the zip-line (the longest in North Africa), and films himself for his social media.

7pm: The only serious moment we will have during the Drivers Camp“, as François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events defines it. For over two hours, the athletes are united under a tent to be briefed on the season ahead. A good way to get them focused and get the impressions of everyone.

9.30pm:
A Moroccan buffet is presented to the drivers for a dinner in good spirits. This time, the new guys are more at ease, and everybody mixes up to talk football and family.

Wednesday April 3rd, 10am, Agafay desert:
It is surely the most beautiful part of this drivers camp. In the middle of a stony desert, a group of quads await the drivers, for a one-and-a-half hour ride. They are enthusiastic. One of the guides prefer to warn them: “The race is not today, but this weekend! Be careful, here there is no ambulance, no helicopter“. But you need more to slow down the enthusiasm of certain hotheads, who during the quad ride do small jumps and burnouts while the guides keep calling them back to order. Indeed, deep inside they are big kids, passionate about racing, who likes to have fun, and to show it off. That may be why they are so accessible, so smiling and always available to take a selfie with the fans or sign an autograph.

Noon:
It is the time for a last moment of sharing between the drivers around a meal, always in great spirits, which we hope will last until the end of the season.

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