Drama for TGR in Morocco, as Nasser and Mathieu lose time on Stage 4
• Driveshaft problem halted their charge just 11km from the finish
• TGR remain in overall Top 10, but now out of contention for victory
Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver, Mathieu Baumel's hopes of securing a seventh Rally of Morocco title were dashed on Stage 4, when their usually highly reliable GR DKR Hilux T1+ developed a problem with one of its rear drive shafts. This forced the crew to use front-wheel-drive only for a large part of the stage, but the continued stress on the front drivetrain eventually caused a problem with the right front driveshaft, just 11km from the end of the stage.
This forced the crew to halt and complete field repairs, before setting off towards the finish near the city of Merzouga. They were the first car into Stage 4, following their victory on the previous stage, but they lost more than 1hr 20min due to the problem, and have tumbled down the overall standings as a result.
The top-performing Toyota Hilux T1+ crew in Stage 4 was Juan Yacopini and Daniel Oliveras, who recorded the third-fastest time on the day. They had Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov just 37sec behind them on the stage; with Yazeed Al Rahji and Timo Gottschalk following a further 10sec back, also in a Toyota Hilux T1+.
This result catapulted Yazeed and Timo to the top of the overall standings, with the Saudi driver and his German co-driver now locked in a final-stage battle for victory. Their lead over Audi's Stephane Peterhansel is 3min 49sec, which may seem like a narrow margin.
However, Peterhansel triumphed in Stage 4, and will have to open the road on the final stage. Yazeed and Timo will be the sixth car on the road (provisionally), which is a much stronger road position. With that said, the final stage is 152km in length, and while this is significantly shorter than all of the other stages in the 2023 Rally of Morocco, anything can still happen.
The final stage will start and end near the bivouac at Merzouga, bringing the rally to a close after five competitive stages, and a total distance of 2,240km, including liaisons.
Alain Dujardyn, TGR W2RC Team Principal: “It is always disappointing to lose time on a stage, and today's driveshaft problems was no exception. Our GR DKR Hilux T1+ seldom misses a beat, but as with anything, there are unforeseen circumstances. I am disappointed for Nasser and Mathieu, who were in complete control of the race until just 11km from the end of Stage 4. Now, we'd like to wish our friend and Toyota Hilux T1+ privateer, Yazeed Al Rahji, all the best for the final stage."
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “I would have loved to win another Rally of Morocco title, but this time it is not to be. We are very disappointed, but still proud of winning the previous stages; winning the World Rally-Raid Championship title; and competing at the very highest level. Tomorrow, we'll push to finish the event in style."
Mathieu Baumel: “Stage 4 was always going to be a tough one, but we were ready for it. The navigation had gone smoothly throughout the day, and we were feeling confident. Unfortunately, a problem with the driveshaft forced us first to slow down, and later to stop completely, which was a very disappointing end to our stage."
Rally of Morocco Stage 4 Results:
1. S. Peterhansel (FRA) / E. Boulanger (FRA), TEAM AUDI SPORT, 3:30:49
2. O. Terranova (ARG) / B. Graue (ARG), BAHRAIN RAID XTREME, +7:01
3. J. Yacopini (ARG) D. Oliveras (ARG), OVERDRIVE RACING, +8:04
4. D. Krotov (KGZ) / K. Zhiltsov (KGZ), OVERDRIVE RACING, +8:41
5. Y. Al Rajhi (SAU) / T. Gottschalk (DEU), OVERDRIVE RACING, +8:51
49.* N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / M. Baumel (FRA), TOYOTA GAZOO RACING, +1:23:38
*at the time of writing
Rally of Morocco Standings after Stage 4:
1. Y. Al Rajhi (SAU) / T. Gottschalk (DEU), OVERDRIVE RACING, 12:51:22
2. S. Peterhansel (FRA) / E. Boulanger (FRA), TEAM AUDI SPORT, +3:49
3. J. Yacopini (ARG) D. Oliveras (ARG), OVERDRIVE RACING, +24:10
4. D. Krotov (KGZ) / K. Zhiltsov (KGZ), OVERDRIVE RACING, +28:11
5. N. Roma (ESP) / A. Bravo (ESP), M-SPORT FORD, +38:34
9. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) / M. Baumel (FRA), TOYOTA GAZOO RACING, 9:04:43
*at the time of writing
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Two of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing W2RC's key sponsors, Red Bull and Eurol, have committed to share in the team's W2RC journey for 2023, supporting Nasser and Mathieu's efforts through TGR. Eurol is the Dutch developer and producer of lubricants, additives, cleaners, technical fluids and specialty products, available in over 90 countries worldwide. Innovation, quality and sustainability are core values of the Eurol brand. Eurol provides TOYOTA GAZOO Racing with the Eurol Specialty Racing line with SYNGIS Technology, for extreme high-performance levels under all circumstances.
Red Bull has established itself as the premiere supporter of extreme sports and athletes, and as such fits perfectly with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's Dakar and W2RC efforts. The Austrian energy drink manufacturer has partnered with Nasser, Mathieu and TGR over numerous years, and the involvement bore fruit when Nasser and Mathieu won a second Dakar title for TGR in January 2022.
The team is also supported by Jonsson Workwear and USN.