January may be a cold, sleepy month for riders in the northern hemisphere, but it's absolutely buzzing with excitement if you're a fan of rally raids. For the past handful of years, we've been lucky enough to have not one, but two rally raids to follow while we're busy staying warm. Both the Africa Eco Race and the Dakar Rally are here to get the new year started right.

In 2024, the Africa Eco Race is the first rally raid out of the gate, officially kicking off on December 31, 2023. The ferry ride from Europe and the briefing took up the first couple of days, and Stage One of the actual rally raid commenced on January 2, 2024. 

This year, two new motorcycle manufacturers joined the charge for the 15th edition of the Africa Eco Race. One is Harley-Davidson and Joan Garcia Pedrero. Another is Aprilia, with the Tuareg 660 and factory riders Jacopo Cerutti and Francesco Montanari.

How did the newcomers fare in Stage One? Jacopo Cerutti and his Aprilia Tuareg 660 went out and won the stage. Cerutti's time was 01:54:09. He finished ahead of both Yamaha Ténéré 700s ridden by Alessandro Botturi and Pol Tarrés, who completed the stage nearly two minutes behind Cerutti.

 

Montanari, who doesn't have quite as much rally raid experience under his belt as Cerutti has, finished in a respectable 10th place. As for Joan Pedrero and his Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250, he finished in eighth place.

“It’s really great to begin this adventure ahead of the rest. As I said the day before we started, I had hoped to be out front in some of the legs and managing to do so straight away really energizes us ahead of the coming days of racing. It was a leg without any great difficulties, with slow sections alternating with other, faster ones, and on fairly flat terrain, but complicated enough in terms of navigation," Cerutti said in a statement following Stage One.

"A lot of riders made some mistakes, whereas I probably did not make as many, which helped me. I was immediately at ease on the bike, which allowed me to set a good pace straight away and so, at the end of the day, this nice win came. Having taken Aprilia back to winning in the African desert makes me proud and I’m enjoying the moment, but my mind is already on tomorrow’s leg," he concluded.

But Wait, There's More!

As we write this, Stage Two just wrapped. Aprilia's Jacopo Cerutti finished first on the second stage yet again, which also puts him solidly in the lead of the motorcycle category overall. 

 

It's an exciting development for Cerutti, to be sure, and also for Aprilia. We look forward to watching how the remaining stages progress in the 2024 Africa Eco Race!

Gallery: 2024 Africa Eco Race: Apriliia wins Stage 1

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