ERFOUD, MOROCCO – Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel blitzed Stage 2 of the 2019 Rally of Morocco, to increase their overall lead in the event to 17min 09sec. At the same time, teammates Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, in an identical Toyota Hilux, moved up to second place in the overall standings.
“It was a really good stage for the team today,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “Nasser and Mathieu really showed their class, and are now firmly in control at the head of the field. At the same time, Giniel finished the stage in fourth place today, so he’ll have a great starting position for Stage 3.”
De Villiers/Haro started the day as the third car on the road, after a strong showing in the opening stage of the event. The pair powered through the first part of the stage, but a damaged exhaust manifold saw the Stellenbosch-based driver lose power.
“Not only that, but the manifold problem caused the car to consume significantly more fuel than normal,” explained De Villiers after reaching the finish. “I kept a close eye on the fuel level throughout the remainder of the stage, and had to back off a bit in order to get us home safely. In the end, we finished with just 10 litres of fuel to spare.”
Despite this, the pair recorded the fourth-fastest time, 13min 55sec behind Al Attiyah/Baumel. They had MINI’s Jakub Przygonski and Stephane Peterhansel ahead of them on the stage, but did enough to move up to second place in the general classification, some 37sec ahead of Peterhansel in third place.
Al Attiyah/Baumel are 17min 09sec clear of De Villiers/Haro, but will have to open the road again for Stage 3 – an act that seems to hamper any crew, except for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Al Attiyah/Baumel.
Further back, teammates Bernhard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul had a testing stage. The pair started strong, but broke a driveshaft near the end of the stage. They recorded the 6th-fastest time on the stage as a result, and find themselves in fourth place in the general classification.
“Bernhard and Tom had a really good run, but ran into difficulties towards the end of the stage,” explained Hall. “Even so, they are very much in the mix, and we are positive that they’ll record a good result on Stage 3.”
Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma had a clean stage on Stage 2, with no punctures or problems. The pair were tenth-fastest on the stage, and now find themselves in tenth place in the overall standings. Having moved into the Top 10, they’ll have some more dust gap for Stage 3, which should give them their first opportunity to attack.
With that said, Stage 3 promises to be a stern test, at 440 km of special stage distance. The total mileage for the day will add up to 533 km, including liaisons of 93 km.
“We expect another mix of terrain types for Stage 3,” concluded Hall. “There are some dunes on the route, but also many rocky tracks and dry riverbeds. Navigation will be challenging, but we are in a good position at the moment, and are looking forward to the remainder of the race.”
Stage 3 will feature an all-new approach to the roadbook, with the crews only receiving the navigational notes five minutes prior to the start of the race. This added challenge is designed to level the playing field for all crews, and will also be used for Stage 4 of the rally.
The 2019 Rally of Morocco comprises 5 special stages, with a total distance of 2,500 km. While most of the racing takes place in the area near the south-central town of Erfoud, the race is set to conclude in the city of Fes on Wednesday, October 9th.