Toyota’s and Overdrive Racing’s new W2RC leader Al-Attiyah and Al-Rajhi finish thrid and fourth in demanding Rally of Morocco

Third and fourth-placed finishes for Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Yazeed Al-Rajhi at the 22nd Rally of Morocco ensured that the Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive Racing drivers remain firmly in contention for success in the inaugural FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

At the wheel of his Toyota GR DKR Hilux, Al-Attiyah teamed up with French co-driver Mathieu Baumel to win the Qualifying Stage and the third of five desert selective sections. A series of four punctures cost the Qatari dearly on the second stage and he climbed back from seventh position to finish third and snatch an unofficial 22-point lead over arch rival Sébastien Loeb in the FIA W2RC Drivers’ Championship.

Al-Attiyah, who missed out on the chance to win the event for the seventh time, said: « It was not an easy rally and the tyre issues cost us the chance to fight for the win. But we set some competitive times and now have a good lead to take to Spain for the last event. »

Al-Rajhi paired up with the two-time Morocco-winning co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and led the event outright at the first overnight bivouac in Tan Tan. But the Overdrive Racing Toyota driver dropped 38 minutes repairing a loose steering rack on the third stage and fell to seventh. Winning stage four propelled the Saudi back to fourth and he retained his position to the finish in Agadir to retain third in the points’ standings.

Al-Rajhi said: « Morocco was a tough race with rough training for all the competitors, be it from the navigation side, to the car and also the driver. It was my fifth time here and great preparation for the Dakar. We went through some difficult times over the last six days, but won two stages and I am proud of that and Dirk did a great job. »

Former Dakar enduro rider Isidre Esteve Pujol teamed up with Jose-Maria Villalobos for the first time in an Overdrive-prepared Toyota run under the Repsol Rally Team banner. The Spaniard delivered a stunning performance to finish seventh overall.

Erik van Loon suffered a puncture and engine issues and incurred hefty time penalties for failing to finish two desert stages. But the Dutchman and French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay battled back well, setting several impressive stage times to reach the finish at the foot of the rankings in their Overdrive Racing Toyota.

Overdrive Racing ran a Hilux for the Portuguese crew of Lourenço Rosa and Pedro Prata. The crew stayed clear of major problems to reach the finish in 12th position. Argentinean driver Juan-Cruz Yacopini and Spanish co-pilot Daniel Oliveras were hovering around the top 10 until they were forced out of the event on the penultimate stage.

Al-Attiyah and Al-Rajhi began strongly and carded the fastest and second quickest times through the short Qualifying Stage that would later determine the starting order for the first desert selective section of 316.21km between Agadir and Tan Tan. The Qatari edged into an eight-second lead with series rival Loeb a further five adrift in third.

Van Loon, Rosa, Yacopini and Lionel Baud were classified in sixth, eighth, 10th and 79th, after the Frenchman missed a waypoint on the short stage, incurred a 12-minute time penalty and decided to withdraw from the FIA event for personal reasons and enter the Open category – where he eventually finished fourth. Esteve Pujol was 26th in his Overdrive-built car.

Al-Rajhi won the opening desert stage by 3min 05sec from Al-Attiyah to snatch an early lead. Al-Attiyah’s co-driver Baumel said: « It was a rocky, bumpy stage with camel grass, sandy, fast and with tricky navigation. At the end we got P2 after two punctures but survived the stage and we got four bonus points for second place and were able to benefit from Loeb’s delays. »

Yacopini was the highest-placed of the other Overdrive Racing men in eighth after Van Loon stopped with engine issues and was forced to wait for assistance, incurring massive time penalties as a result.

Van Loon said: « Navigation was immediately difficult and then we punctured on a stone but were still fourth fastest after 40km. Then, after 54km, the oil pressure dropped. The team will fix the problem and we will go for daily results for the rest of the rally. »

Rosa came home in 32nd place and Esteve Pujol clocked the 11th quickest time.

The second selective section of 315.13km wound its way through the southern deserts to the oasis town of Laãyoune. Punctures were Al-Attiyah’s bug bear and the Qatari suffered two flat tyres and then a third and fourth, which forced him to wait for Yacopini to pass by and lend a spare wheel. The resultant time loss was an agonising 53min 50sec for the Qatari, who plummeted to seventh in the overall standings.

Al-Attiyah said: « The stage was difficult and we had four punctures. We lost a lot of time. We got a little bit of help from Van Loon towards the end and Yacopini and we managed to finish. »

Van Loon and Yacopini completed the special with the fourth and fifth quickest times – Van Loon getting a single flat tyre close to the start – while Al-Rajhi was eighth and dropped 33min 22sec to the stage-winning Loeb. In the overall standings, it meant that Al-Rajhi dropped behind Loeb, Terranova and Chicherit into fourth place, Yacopini was fifth and Al-Attiyah held seventh, 33min 18sec off the lead.

Al-Attiyah used his starting position to full advantage on the third desert loop of 298.53km around Laãyoune, which was held in strong winds and sandstorm-like conditions. He bounced back strongly to win the stage by 1min 21sec from Chicherit, thus reducing the deficit to the Frenchman to 27min 37sec in the overall rankings.

The day’s performance also lifted the Qatari into fourth overall at the expense of Al-Rajhi, who slipped to seventh after losing 38 minutes on the day with steering rack issues. Al-Rajhi had been leading up to 244km. He said: « It was another exhausting day. We were in the lead after starting from eighth place but the steering rack loosened and we had to stop and fix it which cost us a lot of time 53km before the finish line. »

Van Loon, Yacopini and Rosa came home in fifth, 11th and 17th with Yacopini holding eighth in the general classification.

The penultimate stage of 345.98km ran between Laãyoune and a return to Tan Tan. Al-Rajhi bounced back strongly to beat Chicherit to the stage win by 90 seconds, despite a minor technical issue near the end. Al-Attiyah came home third and saw his title chances boosted when Loeb stopped in the stage with his own technical problems which pushed him well behind the Qatari once additional time penalties were imposed.

The result lifted Al-Attiyah and Al-Rajhi into third and fourth in the general standings. Rosa came home in seventh but there were further delays for Van Loon when he spotted an engine oil leak, stopped and failed to finish the stage.

Baumel said: « The first 200km were tricky. It was only white sand and completely flat so you could not see the difference between the lines and the off-piste. You can compare to Qatar, every 200 metres some change of cap. My driver had a good eye and he followed very well. »

The fifth stage of 289.51km ran between Tan Tan and the finish in Agadir, but included non-competitive transfer and neutralisation sections and was shortened because of reduced visibility.

Van Loon set the third quickest time to further boost his confidence in the new Hilux and the fourth and fifth fastest times confirmed fourth and third overall for Al-Rajhi and Al-Attiyah.

The final round of the 2022 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) takes place in Andalucia on October 18-23.

22nd Rally of Morocco – result:
1. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) GCK Prodrive Hunter BRX, 14hr 47min 29sec*
2. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Alex Haro (ESP) Prodrive Hunter BRX, 14hr 58min 24sec*
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux, 15hr 16min 53sec*
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 15hr 29min 00sec*
5. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country, 15hr 48min 06sec
6. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Mini John Cooper Works Buggy, 15hr 51min 33sec*
7. Isidre Esteve Pujol (ESP)/José-Maria Villalobos (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 16hr 39min 32sec
8. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Grallyteam OT3 (T3), 16hr 44min 8sec*
9. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Oriol Mena (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 16hr 54min 35sec
10. Cristina Gutièrrez (ESP)/Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Grallyteam OT3 (T3), 16hr 56min 03sec*
11. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 17hr 09min 49sec*
12. Lourenço Rosa (PRT)/Pedro Prata (PRT) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 17hr 13min 44sec…
68. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 103hr 07min 38sec*

* denotes registered for W2RC

Neil Perkins,


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