TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro won the 2019 Rally of Morocco in their Toyota Hilux. The pair clinched victory in a tough, five-day rally raid competition over mixed and challenging terrains after taking the lead on the penultimate stage. The crew powered to a stage win on the final timed section of the event for the overall victory.
It was a bitter-sweet victory for the team as reigning Dakar Rally champions, Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel retired from the Rally of Morocco after damaging the crank sensor following a rock impact on Stage 4. With the crank sensor offline, the engine management system was unable to keep the engine running, and the pair were forced to retire despite holding a lead of more than 17 minutes.
Competing in their first international rally raid competition, Fernando Alonso and navigator, Marc Coma, successfully completed the five-stage event, adding to their experience as part of an intensive training programme towards a 2020 Dakar Rally entry. The Spanish duo previously took part in a round of the local South African Cross-Country Series last month, but the Rally of Morocco gave them the first opportunity to gauge their pace against some of the fastest rally raid crews in the world.
Fernando and Marc faced a variety of challenges from the beginning, having to negotiate their way through dust kicked up by other competitors starting from 15th position. Over the course of the 204-kilometre Stage 1, the crew picked up three punctures on the rocky terrain. With only two spares, they lost some 40 minutes waiting for the next Toyota crew to flag down to borrow a spare wheel. The Overdrive Racing crew of Viktor Khoroshavtsev and navigator Anton Nikolaev graciously assisted the rally raid newcomer, allowing Fernando and Marc to complete the stage in 21st place.
Stage 2 brought the competitors to the Merzouga Dunes on the edge of the Sahara Desert featuring 386 kilometres of rocky tracks and sand dunes. Fernando and Marc completed a clean run despite running the dust which saw the pair move up to 10thfastest overall, giving them an increased dust gap for the next stage.
An all-new approach to the road book was debuted for the 363-kilometre Stage 3 where crews only received their navigational instructions five minutes before the start of the stage. The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews of Bernhard Ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul, Fernando and Marc both drove into the same ditch which was not marked in the road book. Both cars suffered suspension damage and had to return to the bivouac for repairs overnight to be able to continue the race with time penalties.
More punctures for Fernando and Marc on the 311-kilometre Stage 4, which again featured a “blind” road book concept, with spares running short. When the crew arrived at the stricken Nasser and Mathieu, stopping to try to help their teammate, a quick-thinking Marc took Nasser’s spare wheels when it became apparent the Qatari rally raid legend could go no further.
Wednesday’s final stage saw competitors travel 168 kilometres from Erfoud to Fes, traversing rocky paths and a steep, winding climb through the Atlas Mountains. With Giniel and Alex in front, Fernando and Marc completed another clean stage and posted the 8th fasted time of the day, finishing in 26th position overall, one place behind Bernhard and Tom, who posted the second-fastest time on the closing stage.
On October 24, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will announce its 2020 Dakar Rally team entry at a press conference held at the PortAventura Convention Centre in Tarragona, Spain.