TOYOTA GAZOO Racing victorious at 2019 Rally of Morocco
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 10th fastest 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.
2019 Rally of Morocco Results:
1st No. 307 (Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro)
25th No. 304 (Bernhard Ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul)
26th No. 314 (Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma)
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “I’m really happy for Giniel winning the Rally of Morocco for the fourth time. It’s really good for him and our TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team as a whole. It’s also the first win for Giniel paired with Alex which tells us that the two are working really well together in the Hilux. The whole team came into the final stage disappointed by what happened to Nasser yesterday but we are leaving Morocco upbeat and in good spirits. The problem which caused Nasser to stop was a small one. We will continue our investigation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. With the second fastest time on the final stage, Bernhard and Tom also showed what they are capable of. For Fernando, we knew it was a steep learning curve for him. If we had more time, I would’ve preferred for him to do more local races in South Africa before taking on something as formidable as the Rally of Morocco. The route is extremely tough and the road book wasn’t always precise. Despite the challenges he faced, I know he gained more invaluable experience here. He might not feel it yet, but with the decision on Dakar coming up, he will definitely be in a position to reap the benefits of everything he experienced in Morocco.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 307): “It’s an incredible experience! I’ve won the Rally of Morocco three times before but it has been a while since then. It’s really great to win such a challenging event. It’s only five days but the stages are really difficult. We saw in the second half of the rally how quickly things can change. A big thank you to the team who did an incredible job here during the test and during the rally. Alex did a great job in the Hilux and it’s great to win our first rally together.”
Bernhard Ten Brinke (No. 304): “It was a really tough rally but Toyota won the Rally of Morocco so I’m really happy for the whole team and for Giniel. The rally was over for us on Stage 3 when our car was damaged and we had to go back to the bivouac for repairs. But I’m happy with our performance on the last stage, coming in second just behind Giniel. Thank you to all our mechanics and engineers for getting us going again.”
Fernando Alonso (No. 314): “I’m definitely taking a lot of positives out of the Rally of Morocco. It was a busy two weeks here testing and then, for my first international rally raid competition, straight into one of the toughest races on the calendar. I’m really happy to cross the finish line and it has been an eye-opening experience to see just how demanding it is for everyone in the team, the cars and the crews. We had some ups and downs in our performance but I think we demonstrated our potential in the Hilux. Most importantly, I’m learning from all the difficulties we faced during the rally. I want to congratulate Giniel, Alex and the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team for the win. Giniel has been my biggest help, mentoring me during my trainings in Namibia and South Africa over the past few months.”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing – 2020 Dakar Rally Team Announcement Press Conference
Date: October 24, 2019
Time: 15:30-17:00 CEST
Location: PortAventura Convention Centre (Room: Alexandria 2), Av. de l'Alcalde Pere Molas, 43480 Vila-seca, Tarragona, Spain
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TOYOTA GAZOO Racing official website: http://toyotagazooracing.com/