At the midway point of the 2018 Rallye du Maroc the battle is on for offroad supremacy in both the two and four wheel categories. Two-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah leads the car contest, while Toby Price of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team has his nose in front of the bike race.
A decisive stage win for Qatari racer Nasser Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel on the third day of the Rallye du Maroc have put the pair on top of the car race. Al-Attiyah drove his Toyota Hilux expertly over the dunes throughout Saturday’s 329-kilometre timed special stage.
« So far everything has been going well for us, confidence is high and we’re doing all we can to win. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Frenchmen Cyril Despres and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret clocked the day’s second fastest time in the car category. As a result Despres has moved his MINI John Cooper Works Buggy up the overall rankings to sit 15 minutes behind Al-Attiyah in second place.
« We finished second, which could have been better but also could have been much worse. It was a tense situation to drive 200 kilometres with no spare tyre left. » – Cyril Despres
Despres and Cottret’s fellow X-raid MINI JCW Team crew of Spaniards Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz endured a difficult stage and look to have relinquished hope of winning outright in Morocco.
Polish driver Kuba Przygonski and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul rounded off the car race podium. Przgonski and Colsoul are now a big step closer to claiming the 2018 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup thanks to guiding their MINI through another tough day in Morocco.
« We were trying all day to go on the maximum speed that we could. We had two flat tyres along the way, but the rest was OK. » – Kuba Przygonski
In the bike race the Red Bull KTM Factory Team remain dominate with Matthias Walkner claiming the stage win and Toby Price leading overall. The stage win for Walkner of Austria puts him second in the general classification.
« We tried out some new tyres today which have performed well on the rough terrain of Morocco, so it’s good to know we can race hard on them and they will last for 290 kilometres. » – Matthias Walkner
Price of Australia had the unenviable task of opening the road following Friday’s stage win, but he coped with the task admirably. Even though Walkner closed him down, no rider overtook Price on the stage so he maintained his overall lead.
« The stage has gone really well – I set off first and I finished first on the road so that’s encouraging. » – Toby Price
It was not all plain sailing for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team though with British biker Sam Sunderland struggling with a rear wheel problem. Sunderland eventually came home in 21st place on the stage.
« I nursed the bike home but obviously lost a lot of time. We still have three days left, so I’ll continue to do my best and get some more kilometres on the bike to prepare for Dakar. » – Sam Sunderland
There’s close to 300 kilometres waiting for the Rallye du Maroc convoy on Sunday in the Erfoud region of the Sahara Desert. Even those at the top of the general classification will not be taking their position for granted just yet.
Rallye du Maroc SS 2
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota, 03:30:53
2. Cyril Despres (FRA) MINI Buggy, +09:06
3. Kuba Przygonski (POL) MINI Rally, +12:56
Rallye du Maroc overall after SS2
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota, 06:08:35
2. Cyril Despres (FRA) MINI Buggy, +15:05
3. Kuba Przygonski (POL) MINI Rally, +16:25
Rallye du Maroc SS 2
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM, 03:26:48
2. Toby Price (AUS) KTM, +02:46
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna, +04:11
Rallye du Maroc overall after SS2
1. Toby Price (AUS) KTM, 05:51:39
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM, +00:12
3. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda, +11:53
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « Everybody wants to win this race because it’s the last cross country race in 2018. This race is a big part of everyone’s Dakar Rally preparations. So far everything has been going well for us, confidence is high and we’re doing all we can to win. »
Cyril Despres: « This was a full day of cross country racing. We had two flats in the first 100 kilometres of the stage. The last 200 kilometres of the stage felt really long because we knew we had no more spare tyres on the buggy. We increased the pressure in all our tyres to try and avoid more problems but this made it quite tricky to drive. Eventually we found the right rhythm and we were able to push in some places. Finally we finished second, which could have been better but also could have been much worse. It was a tense situation to drive 200 kilometres with no spare tyre left. »
Kuba Przygonski: « We were trying all day to go on the maximum speed that we could. We had two flat tyres along the way, but the rest was OK. At the end of the stage we were racing with Martin Prokop and Cyril Despres. It nice to be involved in these kind of good spirited fights along the way. »
Matthias Walkner: « That was a good stage today, navigation was very challenging. I had Toby in front of me, but that made riding quite tricky because of the dust, so I was still forced to rely on my roadbook. A lot of the pistes are still hard to follow due to them being washed out by the rain, but I managed to complete the whole stage without making too many mistakes. »
Toby Price: « Stage two has gone really well – I set off first and I finished first on the road so that’s encouraging. Leading the full 281-kilometre stage was tough but I think I managed to do a good job with just a couple of small mistakes. I lost a little time finding my way again and I think that’s where Matthias was able to make up the three minutes, but overall I am really happy with the day. »
Sam Sunderland: « Today was a little frustrating, especially after riding such a strong stage yesterday. Things were going well and I was feeling really good, but around kilometre 220 I hit a big rock with my wheel, which lead to damage to my mousse. I nursed the bike home but obviously lost a lot of time. We still have three days left, so I’ll continue to do my best and get some more kilometres on the bike to prepare for Dakar. »