Solidarity in the Moroccan desert

@Roberto Arribas

Two IE University students will be taking on the UniRaid rally in a 1991 Citröen AX. Along the way, they will distribute clothes and school and sanitary equipment to villages in the Moroccan desert.

The first Citröen AX was presented at the Paris Motor Show of 1986 and was revolutionary at the time. Its beautiful and groundbreaking design, coupled with good aerodynamics and its light weight compared to other cars of the same range, made the AX one of the best vehicles of the time. “It is a simple, light car with good endurance,” say Octavi Oliu and Ignacio Llopis, both students at IE University.

The Citröen AX is the car model these two university students have chosen to take on a colossal challenge and unforgettable adventure in less than a month’s time: crossing Morocco from north to south in a car that’s almost three decades old while delivering at least thirty kilos of school supplies, toys and clothing to indigenous desert communities.

Both IE University students will be taking part for the first time in UniRaid, a charity rally through Morocco in which college students from all over Spain compete by travelling 2,500 kilometers in cars more than twenty years old. It will take place from February 24th to March 4th.

Foto by: Roberto Arribas


Over these nine days, participants must complete seven demanding stages throughout Morocco, following the ancient routes of the Paris-Dakar rally, with only a roadbook, a map and a compass (no GPS or electronic devices are allowed).

According to the UniRaid website, the rally is above all a solidary adventure aimed at students with an entrepreneurial streak aged between 18 and 28. UniRaid is not a typical rally or race, it is a challenge that awards solidarity above all else. The end goal of the participants is therefore to provide charity material to desert villages.

Octavi Oliu and Ignacio Llopis share concern, curiosity and “the desire to do something that can somehow improve the lives of those less fortunate.”  The pair combine a passion for competitive sport with a desire to help others. UniRaid is therefore the perfect challenge for these two IE University students.  “We have been preparing for this challenge for a long time, and now’s the time to get down to it.”

A demanding route

The eighth edition of the rally will depart from Tangier on a journey filled with unforeseen difficulties and natural obstacles where participants will also have to overcome a series of skill tests imposed by the organizers. They will navigate a complicated route which will take them through mountain roads, tracks, sand, and dunes.

The majority of the rally will take place in the Erg Chebbi desert in Morocco’s interior, where sand dunes can reach a maximum height of 150 meters. Once they have completed this stage, they must reach the “red city” of Marrakesh, then return to Tangier where the race ends.

UniRaid organizers will provide support to drivers during the adventure. Their responsibilities include installing “black boxes” to keep track of each vehicle, setting up camps, providing a team of mechanics and organizing other logistical tasks for participants, such as those related to day-to-day hygiene, food, and accommodation.

Octavi and Ignacio are treating the rally as a sort of business project to get additional resources for their solidarity work. To do this, they will have the support of a large number of sponsors, without whom the project wouldn’t be possible, including IE University, Segovia City Council and Turismo de Segovia, Sweet Home Segovia, and IES La Albuera (where the vehicle is undergoing preparation work). Other sponsors include companies like Grupo Calvo, 100 Montaditos, ÜGO app, OmniAccess, and the Atresmedia television channel Mega.

Fine tuning

They’re now putting the finishing touches to the 1991 Citröen AX 14 TZS. In fact, they have been pampering the car since they got it. It was bought for only 400 euros in a town in the Segovia province through an online buying and selling platform. They are now adapting it for Raid in order to face the harsh conditions of the desert with the maximum security.

To do this, Octavi and Ignacio are relying on the technical expertise of vocational training students at IES Albuera de Segovia. A group of students studying a basic vocational training course in vehicle maintenance and an intermediate course in bodywork are working on the Citröen AX to get it in the best condition to start the rally. The clutch and suspension have been replaced, new ceiling lights have been installed, the bodywork has been painted, and tires have been fitted designed to overcome the desert dunes and safely navigate along demanding Moroccan roads and tracks.

Foto by: Roberto Arribas


When we asked them if they could help, they thought it was a fantastic and inspirational idea. Adapting our car is a way for them to collaborate in a very nice project that helps students learn and also involves a strong component of solidarity,” says Ignacio.

When the Citröen AX is ready we will do the shoot and display the vehicle at our university and in Segovia,” adds Octavi. He reveals that the car’s bodywork will be yellow because in 1991, the year it was manufactured, Citröen won its first Dakar rally with a yellow ZX sponsored by Camel.

Octavi and Ignacio are counting down the days before they leave for Africa. They are now in a mad dash to get everything ready. “We want to take more than the thirty kilos of charity material required by the organizers of the rally, including clothing, school and sanitary materials, and non-perishable food.”

What’s more, they will be broadcasting their adventure in real time on social media, on Facebook (Uniraid Oliu Llopis), and Instagram (@uniraidoliullopis). The two students will have the latest-generation GoPro camera to take videos and photos. They have already begun telling their story on their blog.

We are going to learn a lot from this experience,” the two assure. The adventure is about to begin: a 27-year-old Citröen AX, two young enthusiasts, and a charitable goal. It is, without a doubt, an exciting challenge.