World Cup title contenders Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel have taken an early lead in the Rallye du Maroc, the final and decisive round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. The Toyota Hilux duo claimed the stage win by two minutes and 39 seconds over the Century Racing CR6 crew of Mathieu Serradori/Fabian Lurquin. Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro took third, giving Toyota two of the top three positions after the first of five demanding legs.

Staring from Fes, today’s opener took in a tricky 226-kilometre section to the bivouac in Erfoud over mountainous and stony terrain, which resulted in a string of punctures for many of the contenders. Al-Attiyah, who is bidding for a fifth World Cup title and a sixth consecutive win in Morocco, set the early pace and the Qatari was happy with his day despite a puncture 100 kilometres into the stage. “We had a good day with no mistakes on navigation, the car and tyres have been very good, but it was not easy, and to open the road too,” he said.

A fine second fastest time through the stage went to Serradori with South African de Villiers finishing less than a minute adrift in third. “It was a tough stage, very twisty with lots of rocks so we had to be careful,” said the Toyota driver, a three-time winner of Rallye du Maroc. “We had a relatively clean run on this one as we didn’t push too hard as it was so easy to get a puncture.”

Stéphane and Andrea Peterhansel hold fourth overnight, despite driving on a delaminated tyre for the final 30 kilometres. “The tyre then destroyed the bodywork on the left rear, but we carried on despite knowing we’d lose some time,” said the lead MINI driver, the other contender in the fight for the title.

Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul were another to collect a puncture en route to fifth in the stage. “It was quite a nice stage, but the start was tough on tyres and the driver,” said the Dutchman. “We had good speed and a little navigation problem, but overall I’m quite happy.”

Martin Prokop and Jan Tománek brought their Ford Raptor RS Cross Country to the finish in sixth, just over nine minutes adrift of the lead having been delayed by low fuel pressure. “It was a very good stage and was going well with us running close to the top three, until the car stopped,” said the Czech driver. “We tried to carry on and then it happened again and lots of cars passed us. In the end I’m not happy as we were strong and it could have been perfect.”

Erik van Loon/Sebastian Delaunay finished seventh in a Hilux Overdrive, the Dutch/French pairing dropping time helping fellow Toyota competitor Yazeed Al Rajhi. “We had three punctures and only two spares,” said the Saudi driver who overnights 10th. “We waited for 15 minutes, saw Erik [van Loon] and he gave us one of his tyres, so thanks to him.”

“We always take care of our teammates,” added van Loon. “Until then it was very good, but we obviously lost the time and then had two punctures of our own.”

Carlos Sainz, double FIA World Rally Champion and a former winner of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, was another to struggle with punctures. He and Lucas Cruz take eighth overnight. “We had three punctures and only two spares, so had to re-use one of them,” said the Spaniard.

Aron Domzala/Maciej Marton finished just ahead of Al Rajhi in ninth to lead the T3 crews in their Can-Am Maverick X3.

Fernando Alonso, two-time FIA Formula One and current FIA World Endurance Champion, is competing in his first international cross country rally and the Spaniard, co-driven by multiple Dakar biker winner Marc Coma, had a tough opening day but reached the end of the first leg in 21st position. “It was tough and the start order was a nightmare for us with zero visibility,” said Alonso at the finish. “We had three punctures and one of the other cars did us a favour and gave us a spare wheel. It’s positive to finish. It’s been about learning and hopefully tomorrow we can have a better stage.”

Reigning FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies Champion Jakub Przygonski had a disastrous stage, he and co-driver Timo Gottschalk struggling with brake and tyre issues. They dropped to 28th. Nani Roma was another to hit unconfirmed problems in his Borgward, the Spaniard dropped nearly two hours to the leaders.

Sunday’s second leg takes the crews into the sand and dunes for a 386-kilometre section looping in and out of the Erfoud bivouac.

Photo: @DPPI / Julien Delfosse

Rallye du Maroc – Provisional results after Leg 1 (18:34 hrs local)


Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel

Toyota Hilux

3hr 13min 09sec


Mathieu Serradori/Fabian Lurquin

Century Racing CR6

3hr 15min 48sec


Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro

Toyota Hilux

3hr 16min 23sec


Stéphane Peterhansel/Andrea Peterhansel

MINI John Cooper Works Buggy

3hr 18min 23sec


Bernhard Ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul

Toyota Hilux

3hr 21min 02sec


Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek

Ford Raptor RS Cross Country

3hr 22min 23sec


Erik van Loon/Sébastien Delaunay

Toyota Hilux Overdrive

3hr 26min 13sec


Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz

MINI John Cooper Works Buggy

3hr 28min 12sec


Aron Domzala/Maciej Marton

Can-Am Maverick X3

3hr 36min 20sec


Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr

Toyota Hilux Overdrive

3hr 37min 05sec


Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma

Toyota Hilux

3hr 58min 04sec

Source : Fia