ERFOUD, MOROCCO – A second place finish on Stage 3 of the 2019 Rally of Morocco saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel maintain their overall lead in the event. At the same time, Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro also held station in second place, setting the team up in the perfect position for the coming stages.
The third Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, piloted by Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul, fell foul to an unmarked ditch in a dry riverbed. The pair managed to power their way through the obstacle but damaged the suspension in the process. They made running repairs in the stage, but elected to retire from the stage in order to ensure that the car is in good shape for the final two stages.
A similar fate befell TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Fernando Alonso and navigator Marc Coma. The pair hit the same ditch at high speed, and damaged the suspension on their car as well. They had to abandon the stage, and the Toyota Hilux was recovered to the bivouac.
“We’ll repair both Fernando and Bernhard’s cars tonight, and I’m positive that they’ll both start Stage 4 in the morning,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “As for Nasser and Giniel, they both did a great job today.”
Stage 3 featured a new ‘blind’ roadbook, with the navigational instructions only released to the crews five minutes before the start of the stage. This placed extra pressure on Al Attiyah/Baumel, who had to open the stage. Despite this added challenge, the pair posted the second-fastest time of the day, trailing MINI’s Carlos Sainz home by just 29sec over the 363 km-long test.
Stephane Peterhansel, also in a MINI, finished 5 sec behind the Toyota Hilux crew; with De Villiers/Haro posting the fourth-fastest time, 7sec behind the MINI driver. This leaves Al Attiyah/Baumel in control, 17min 21sec ahead of teammates De Villiers/Haro; with Peterhansel in third place, 30sec further back.
Stage 4 is up next, and again features the ‘blind’ roadbook. It is 412 km in length, and may prove to be the toughest stage of the event, thanks to the mixed terrain and tough dune crossings.
The Rally of Morocco is considered to be a precursor to the Dakar Rally, and the 2019 event is scheduled to conclude in the city of Fes on Wednesday, October 9th after five racing stages, set near the south-central town of Erfoud.