Stage 4 of the 2018 Rally of Morocco, the penultimate round of the FIA’s World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, saw four-times winner of the event, Nasser Al Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel cement their position at the top of the standings. At the same time, the 342 km-long special stage brought disappointment for Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Alex Winocq.
Al Attiyah/Baumel started the stage as the second car on the road, with newly crowned World Champion Jakub Przygonski (MINI) opening the stage. The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pairing took it relatively easy on the long stage, passing Przygonski 70 km from the end to record the second-fastest time of the day, behind MINI driver Cyril Despres.
This performance leaves Al Attiyah/Baumel comfortably in the lead of the event, with a buffer of 18 minutes over Przygonksi, and 25 minutes over Despres.
The day turned out to be a disappointing one for De Villiers/Winocq who suffered a broken exhaust manifold on their Toyota Hilux mid-stage. While this isn’t terminal for the car, the broken manifold poses a massive fire risk, and Team Principal Glyn Hall decided to retire the crew from the stage as a safety precaution.
“Giniel and Alex were keen on a good, clean run today, but that’s not how it turned out,” said the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal from the bivouac at Erfoud. “We simply couldn’t risk a fire, but the pair will be back in action tomorrow.”
Teammates Bernhard ten Brinke and Xavier Panseri, in an identical Toyota Hilux, struggled with navigation on Stage 3, but pulled out all the stops to attack on Stage 4. The Dutch driver pushed hard, recording the third-fastest time on the stage – until a roll near the end of the stage halted his progress.
“The damage to the car wasn’t significant,” continued Hall, “but even so the crew lost time recovering the car and getting going again.”
In the end, they were 9th-fastest on Stage 4, and find themselves in 7thplace in the overall standings.
The team will be running a new damper setup on all three cars for the final stage, as part of their testing for the 2019 Dakar Rally.
The fifth and final stage of the event will see the crews return from the town of Erfoud to the city of Fes, via a special stage of 128 km and a liaison of 259 km. Stage 5 will bring to a close the Rally of Morocco, which spanned a total of 2,051 km, including 1,362 km of special stage racing.