Fes, Morocco: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah stayed clear of problems through the final stage to claim his fifth successive victory in the gruelling Rally of Morocco and give Overdrive Racing and the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Team a major boost as preparations continue for the 2019 Dakar Rally.
A demanding six-day event that ran with a new organising team under the leadership of former Dakar organiser and navigator David Castera featured 1,362 kilometres of tricky navigation, dunes, rocky terrain, river bed crossings and everything that the team needed to shake down its fleet of Toyota Hiluxes before January’s Peruvian challenge. The success marked a hat-trick of wins for Al Attiyah with the Toyota.
Al Attiyah and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel dominated the race from the start and overcame their fair share of minor problems and delays to earn a winning margin of 16min 41sec over the newly-crowned FIA World Cup champion Jakub Przygonski and his Belgian navigator Tom Colsoul.
Al-Attiyah said: “It’s unbelievable that we’ve been able to win our fifth consecutive Rally of Morocco. I’m so happy with our performance here and our new car has been really strong all week. The stages here in Morocco have been really hard, just like they always are. We had days with over 300 kilometres of racing and we were the first car on the road a couple of times because of our stage wins.”
The French crew of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot produced one of their best ever performances to seal an impressive fifth overall in the second of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas.
Al Attiyah clocked the quickest time of 8min 27sec through the opening 10km Prologue stage at Fes. The Qatari beat Martin Prokop by nine seconds and Jakub Przygonski by 23.
Despite damaging a suspension arm on the first section where he finished eighth, Al Attiyah actually won the combined stage after Ten Brinke missed a route waypoint and the Qatari moved into a 24-second lead. He extended his advantage to 15min 05sec with the fastest time on the second stage after leading from the front throughout.
Crews tackled a second loop stage of 289km for day three while the motorcycles were sent on a different track and the first part of a Marathon section without service assistance. Przygonski claimed the stage win but Al Attiyah maintained a lead of 13min 05sec with the second quickest time.
The fourth and penultimate stage of 342km looped through the Erg Chebbi but the arduous route and difficult navigation had caused changes in the overall classification.
Al Attiyah was second quickest and extended his advantage over Przygonski to 18min 12sec and headed the stage-winning Cyril Despres by 25min 57sec after the penultimate stage.
“It was a really hard stage,” said Al Attiyah. “We didn’t push crazy because we catch Przygonski and then we passed him in the last part of the dunes to avoid the dust. We have a good lead and I want to make it five in a row.”
2018 Rally of Morocco – results after SS5 (unofficial @17.30hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux 16hrs 38min 28sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 16hrs 55min 09sec
3. Cyril Despres (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy 17hrs 12min 25sec
4. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country 17hrs 17min 20sec
5. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 19hrs 36min 50sec