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W2RC – Al-Attiyah moves ahead of Loeb in title fight with third place in Morocco Rally, Quintero claims T3 victory


Baciuška and Macik win T4 and T5 categories; Dutchman Koolen clinches FIA T5 title.

Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit returned to cross-country rallying action and sealed a memorable victory in the 22nd Rally of Morocco in a Prodrive Hunter run by GCK Motorsport.

The 44-year-old former professional skier, X-raid works driver and rallycross pilot teamed up with Alex Winocq to set five top three times during the five selective sections through the Moroccan deserts and claim victory over Prodrive team-mates, Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro, by 10min 55sec. Despite three punctures on day three, Chicherit snatched the lead on the third stage and delivered consistent performances over the final two days to confirm a memorable maiden win for the Prodrive team and the 3.5-litre V6 biofuel-powered off-road machine.

Sébastien Loeb and quadruple Dakar winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had arrived in Agadir separated by just one point in their quest to win the Drivers’ Championship in the inaugural FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

Both encountered their fair share of problems, but Al-Attiyah (144pts) overcame a series of flat tyres that pushed him down to seventh at one point. He won the Qualifying Stage and one leg, amassed valuable points for third overall and moved 22 points clear of Loeb (122pts).

Al-Attiyah 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.”

Loeb was forced to change a suspension wishbone and sustained two flat tyres early in the rally. He was then handed two minor speeding time penalties and suffered power steering failure on the penultimate stage between Laãyoune and Tan Tan.

The Frenchman incurred additional time penalties for failing to finish the stage and was handed a 10,000 Euro fine by rally officials for a route infringement during the car’s recovery by the team from the desert. He and Belgian co-driver Fabian Lurquin did win the second and fifth legs, but finishing down in 56th place and out of the W2RC points was particularly costly for the nine-time WRC champion who heads to the final round in Spain with it all to do.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi teamed up with two-time Rally of Morocco-winning co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz to finish fourth in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. The Saudi was fastest on the first desert section between Agadir and Tan Tan, slipped to fourth on SS2 and then lost 38 minutes with a loose steering rack in the third stage and fell back to seventh. He won the fourth stage between Laãyoune and Tan Tan and climbed back to fourth – a position he held to the finish to retain third in the Drivers’ Championship on 80 points.

There were mixed fortunes for the two X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Buggies: Jakub Przygonski and new Spanish co-driver Armand Monleón delivered a solid performance to finish sixth overall and fifth of the W2RC registered crews. Sebastien Halpern and Bernard Graue suffered their fair share of technical delays and were classified near the rear of the field in 60th overall.

Dutchman Erik van Loon suffered a puncture and engine issues and incurred hefty time penalties for failing to finish the first desert stage but he and Sebastien Delaunay battled back well, setting several impressive stage times to reach the finish in their Overdrive Racing Toyota, the duo recording the third quickest time on the final day.

Overdrive team-mate Juan Cruz Yacopini retired on the fourth stage and Frenchman Lionel Baud withdrew from the FIA event after missing a waypoint and incurring a 12-minute time penalty on the Qualifying Stage.

Evgeny Kireev and Jacopo Cerutti finished 16th of the classified W2RC entrants in their SRT Racing Century CR6 Buggy.

In the FIA Manufacturers’ Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing now takes a good lead of over Bahrain Raid Xtreme into the final round in Spain. The X-raid Mini JCW Team hold third place.

South Racing Can-Am Team driver Francisco Lopez saw his lead in the FIA T3 Championship grow to 28 points, despite the fact that 20-year-old American Seth Quintero claimed valuable points for sealing victory in his Grallyteam OT3. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team racer and co-driver Dennis Zenz earned points for finishing sixth of the registered W2RC crews and eighth overall.

Quintero said: “I don’t think I’ve ever driven so cautious and scared in my life. Previously, I’ve always been in the position to fight for a lead at a rally, after than having to manage a lead. I was nine minutes down on day three and then we put some time down on the last two days.”

The American beat Lopez and Spanish co-driver Oriol Mena by 9min 57sec, while Red Bull team-mates, Cristina Gutierrez and Pablo Moreno Hueta, were third. Guillaume de Mevius and Mitch Guthrie rounded off the top five of the W2RC registered drivers in fourth and fifth in their OT3s, with De Mevius winning two stages.

Jean-Luc Pisson was sixth of the registered drivers in his PH Sport-built Zephyr and Equador’s Sebastian Guayasamin made the long trip to North Africa worthwhile and came home in seventh in his FN Speed Team Can-Am.

Early technical problems proved to be expensive for American Can-Am Factory South Racing driver Austin Jones, who arrived in Morocco with a four-point lead over Marek Goczal in the FIA T4 Championship.

With his Polish rival also dropping time early in the event at the wheel of his Cobant-Energylandia Rally Team Can-Am, that opened the door for South Racing Can-Am Team driver Rokas Baciuška and the FN Speed Team’s Pau Navarro to tussle for supremacy.

Baciuška edged clear as the event progressed and managed to secure the win with co-driver Oriol Vidal. Navarro, partnered by French co-driver Michel Metge, collected points for second and Lucas Del Rio and Bruno Jacomy earned points for third. Goczal and Baciuška are now locked in a tussle with Jones for FIA T4 supremacy, as the outcome of the series goes down to the wire in Spain.

Czech driver Martin Macik teamed up with Frantisek Tomasek and David Svanda to top the T5 standings in the Truck category. The win was not sufficient to prevent Dutchman Kees Koolen from clinching the FIA T5 title, with support from his crew members, Wouter de Graaf and Paulo Ceci. Trucks will not compete at the Andalucia Rally in two weeks’ time.

Both MM Technology Iveco Powerstars finished well clear of the registered third-placed Ford Cargo trio of Tomas Vratny, Bartolomiej Boba and Jaromir Martinec.

The Rallye du Maroc and FIA World Rally-Raid Championship classifications can be consulted here.

Next on the calendar: Rally Andalucia will host the fourth and final round of the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship from 18 to 23 October in Spain.