ERFOUD, Morocco – Stage 4 of the 2019 Rally of Morocco was always going to be a tough one. With a race distance of 409km, shortened to 311km due to a technical problem with the organiser’s helicopter, the stage was one with hair on its chest.
In the end it claimed the scalps of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel who retired from a comfortable lead.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s team boss Glyn Hall told The Corner: “Nasser made contact with a rock – nothing major, but it hit the Hilux in exactly the wrong place. We’ve not had this problem before but it is certainly a chink in the armour that we’ll be fixing as soon as possible.”
The impact caused the electronic engine management system to malfunction and the bakkie could not be restarted despite the efforts of the crew and team.
“This is very disappointing for Nasser and Mathieu – they were well on their way to a sixth consecutive Morocco win and their FIA World Cup aspirations might be ended for 2019. We’ll have to wait until the end of the rally to confirm that.”
Meanwhile, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro took over the lead despite a tough time on Stage 4. De Villiers said after the stage, near the town of Ouled Saaidane, close to the Algerian border: “We had a good start to the stage then struggled a bit with navigation and ended up driving an extra 15km.
”We also stopped for a while with Nasser and again later to see if Stephane Peterhansel needed help.”
SAINZ WINS THE STAGE
The Mini team – navigated by Peterhansel’s wife Andrea – rolled down a steep dune face but the Peterhansels were unhurt and De Villiers continued to third place on the stage.
The stage was won by Mini’s Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz with Jakub Przygonski /Timo Gottschalk second. Sainz posted 3hr33min26 with Przygonski 02min32 behind him. De Villiers/Haro were 05min48 further back.
The finish leaves De Villiers/Haro 04min47 ahead of Sainz/Cruz in the general classification, with one stage to go and De Villiers said: “It’s going to be a hell of a fight tomorrow. The stage is very rocky so it’s a roll of the dice going up the mountain – but we’ll both be pushing.”
Further back, Bernhard ten Brinke /Tom Colsoul had a long day in the saddle. They are out of the running in terms of the podium places so also stopped to assist first Al-Attiyah/Baumel, and then the Peterhansels.
ONE STAGE TO GO…
They also donated a spare wheel to Toyota Gazoo Racing team Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, who started the stage with two spares but took a puncture on the way to the start. They suffered two punctures early in the stage, but reached the stricken Al=Attiyah/Baumel car while Ten Brinke/Consoul were lending assistance and stocked up on spares for the rest of the stage.
One 210km stage remains and could produce a sting in the tail. The stage is essentially a reversal of Stage 1 but now requires a steep climb up a rocky mountain pass which could play havoc with the tyres.
The event will close with a ceremonial finish in the central city of Fez.