It was a day of mixed results for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, as the three Toyota Hilux crews tackled Stage 2 of the Rally of Morocco, penultimate event of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Racing. Early leaders Nasser Al Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel extended their lead by winning the stage; while both Giniel de Villiers/Alex Winocq and Bernhard ten Brinke/Xavier Panseri lost time for various reasons.
“Nasser and Mathieu flew today,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac near the town of Erfoud after Stage 2. “As the winners of Stage 1, they had to open the road today, but that didn’t seem to bother them at all.”
The only scare in their assault on the stage came at the 132 km-mark, where they lost four minutes stuck in a mud-hole. But beyond that, they went on to record a stage time of 03:30:53 – 09:06 clear of the second-placed crew of Cyril Despres and co-driver Jean-Pierre Cottret (MINI).
The same mud hole that snagged Al Attiyah/Baumel also caused grief for De Villiers/Winocq. The pair tried a different route through the obstacle, but ended up getting stuck to the point where they needed help from teammates Bernhard ten Brinke and co-driver Xavier Panseri.
But the flying Dutchman and his French co-driver had issues of their own early in the stage, losing nearly 20 minutes while hunting for the second waypoint of the day. As a result, De Villiers/Winocq lost more time waiting for the arrival of their teammates, but both crews finally made it back onto the racing stage.
“Giniel lost the best part of 45 minutes in the mud,” continued Hall, “and he ended up following Bernhard home.”
These results see both De Villiers and Ten Brinke drop down the order, with De Villiers now in 7th in the overall standings after two stages, and Ten Brinke in 8th. Despite this, the team remains upbeat.
“We are taking it one day at a time, and even though today wasn’t the best for us, there are three more tough stages to come,” concluded Hall. “Who knows what could still happen, and with a bit of luck both Giniel and Bernhard can still make themselves count in the rally. Beyond that, we are racking up invaluable kilometres of testing, all in preparation for Dakar 2019.”
Stage 2 brought trouble for British driver Harry Hunt (Peugeot) who had to retire from the stage; while MINI’s Carlos Sainz was reportedly stopped mid-stage for a significant amount of time, struggling with the gearbox in his buggy.
Next up is Stage 3, which comprises 289 km of special stage distance, plus a liaison of 28 km. As with Stage 2, Stage 3 is a looped section that will see the crews start and finish in the town of Erfoud. The terrain is similar to that of Stage 2, with rocky river beds, gravel, sand and some small dunes. The rally finishes on October 9th, back in the city of Fes, after covering 1,362 km of special stage racing.