W2RC – Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk snatch victory in Morocco as Al-Attiyah secures his second title with Toyota


Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk confirmed the runner-up spots in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) by winning the gruelling six-day Rally of Morocco. Despite stopping early in the final stage and missing out on a potential ninth overall, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah did enough to confirm a second successive W2RC Drivers’ Championship.

Al-Attiyah mathematically took the W2RC Drivers’ Championship after winning the second stage. That success and the five bonus points made it impossible for Al-Rajhi to catch the Qatari even if he had won the remaining three stages and the event outright. With the title in the bag, Al-Attiyah was able to relax somewhat but the leader suffered transmission issues 11km from the finish of stage four and slipped to ninth. Then he stopped again six kilometres into the dunes on the final stage and drove straight to the finish, incurring additional time penalties as a result to eventually be classified in 48th overall.

Toyota Gazoo Racing and Al-Attiyah’s co-driver Mathieu Baumel had already confirmed the W2RC Manufacturers’ and Co-drivers’ titles. Baumel said: “Morocco was not really like on the plan but we started fast and very well for the first three stages. Then we lost too much time on the next two. But we win the World Championship and the second time in a row we are World Champions.

Al-Rajhi began the final stage 3min 49sec in front of day four winners Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger in the leading Team Audi Sport RS Q E-Tron that was registered for the W2RC and running in the T1.U (Ultimate) category. When the multiple Dakar winner stopped in the last dunes after just over 20km, Al-Rajhi was able to press on to the finish in Merzouga and record his second win of the season by the margin of 34min 17sec.

Denis Krotov earned a career-best second overall and sealed an Overdrive Racing 1-2 finish with co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov. They moved ahead of Overdrive Racing team-mates Juan Cruz Yacopini and Daniel Oliveras on the final morning when the Argentine stopped for around 20 minutes. Yacopini’s consolation for slipping from second to fourth (third W2RC driver) was confirming third with Oliveras in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships. Toyota, therefore, won all five rounds of the 2023 W2RC and finished 1-2-3 in the championship.

The Argentine’s cause had been helped when Frenchman Sébastien Loeb, who had been challenging Al-Attiyah for the outright lead with co-driver Edouard Boulanger, crashed his Bahrain Raid Xtreme-entered Prodrive Hunter into a ditch 231km into stage four and plummeted down the classification. Scant consolation for the nine-time World Rally Champion was fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship and 53rd overall after he had overcome a broken exhaust and no turbo pressure earlier in the rally.

The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team entered a Ford Ranger for former Dakar champion Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and his co-driver Alex Haro to continue the development process before the 2024 Dakar Rally. The Spaniards were competitive throughout and, despite not being registered for W2RC points, they finished the event in a fine third overall behind the two Toyotas.

The Czech crew of Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka rounded off their season with a strong run to finish sixth and collected W2RC points for fourth in a Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country.

Several of the top-seeded drivers and teams endured a fraught Rally of Morocco. Orlando Terranova and Bernardo Graue suffered a puncture on the first stage and then pushed their Prodrive Hunter as high as second overall, only for a broken rear suspension arm to cost them a lot of time and hefty time penalties. The Argentine recovered well to win the final stage on his way to 51st overall.

Team Audi Sport showed impressive pace from the start with the Audi RS Q E-Trons. Peterhansel may have missed out on challenging for the win after stopping on the last stage, but he did claim one stage success. Likewise, Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist won the Prologue to top an Audi 1-2 on the Swede’s third visit to Morocco after recent testing in Erfoud. Ekström picked up a puncture in SS2 and won the third stage before losing time to reach the finish in ninth and first in the T1.U (Ultimate) section.

Four-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz was hovering inside the top three after two stages before dropping down to 30th place with technical problems on SS3. He began to climb the leader board again before reported overheating issues cost further time in the dunes on SS4. The Spaniard was classified in 22nd with Peterhansel down in 47th.

Guerlain Chicherit entered the Rally of Morocco as the defending champion and he and Alex Winocq were competitive from the outset on their first run in an Overdrive Racing Toyota. They were running inside the top six for long periods but the Frenchman rolled on the penultimate stage, the car landed on its roof and the impact damaged the chassis and forced him to withdraw before the final day.

Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc teamed up with Lukasz Kurzeja in the sole X-raid Mini JCW Rally Plus and was well-placed, despite losing time in the dust on the Prologue and suffering a puncture and a power-steering issue on SS1. Time penalties after third stage delays pushed the veteran down the rankings to eventually finish 52nd.

Frenchman Mathieu Serradori also showed good pace but failed to complete two stages and retired his two-wheel drive Century CR6-T from the T1.2 category before the final day.

Quintero and Zenz seal T3 titles; Marek Goczal wins in Morocco

The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA duo of Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz were crowned FIA W2RC T3 champions after finishing second of 37 crews who entered the category for lightweight prototype cross-country machines.

Quintero led for two days and then had to overcome a 20-minute time penalty imposed before the final morning for finishing a stage with two spare wheels missing on his Can-Am. The American held on over the final kilometres to secure the title, his cause made that much easier after serious engine issues for Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BF Goodrich rivals Mitch Guthrie (Taurus T3M) and Kellon Walch and time losses and subsequent penalties for team-mate Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin on stage four after they broke a trailing arm.

Quintero said: “This feels like a long time coming, we’ve been on the cusp of it in previous years. Even this year we had so many ups and downs along the way and we came into the last round third overall. We knew we had to go for it and that’s what we did!”

The T3 contest in Morocco developed into a fascinating tussle between the USA and Poland. Despite an engine block change and 50 hours of resultant time penalties, Guthrie won two stages for the Americans, young Eryk Goczal was fastest on the Prologue and won stage one for the Energylandia Rally Team in his MCE-5 T3M and Michal Goczal prevailed on stage four before Guthrie was quickest again on SS5.

After differential problems on the second stage and subsequent engine issues in SS3, the regulations governing priority drivers failing to complete two legs of the rally forced Eryk to miss out on the final day.

Consistent stage performances by his father Marek Goczal enabled the Pole to snatch outright T3 victory in Morocco and uphold the Goczal family’s remarkable recent record in the W2RC. Marek Goczal said: “It’s very nice that we won the last round of the World Championship. I believe there is still a lot of work to do on the cars. We keep on going….”

The Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team’s Cristina Gutiérrez and Juan Pablo Moreno Huete delivered another solid performance to finish third overall and confirm fourth places in the W2RC Championship. Chile’s Francisco Lopez and Spanish’s navigator Diego Ortega crewed the second of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team machines and won the third stage. But the duo failed to complete two of the other three days and were forced to retire before the final day.

Rokas Baciuška had already won the W2RC T4 Championship and the Lithuanian teamed up with Oriol Vidal of Spain to drive a Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team Maverick X3 in the T3 category. Unfortunately, a promising start came to nothing when the youngster crashed, damaged the car on the second stage and was forced to withdraw.

Kees Koolen of the G Rally Team finished fourth of the registered drivers in his OT3 and Saudi Arabian female driver Dania Akeel guided her new Wevers Sport Taurus T3 Max to W2RC points for fifth.

T4 victory for Portugal’s Ferreira and Palmeiro

Last year’s FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion João Ferreira took a sideways step from the T3 category to team up with Filipe Palmeiro and drive a South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR in preparation for a W2RC programme in 2024. He won the Prologue and two stages on his way to a hard-earned T4 category win.

Team-mate Sara Price of America was not registered for the W2RC but the winner of the Road to Dakar race in the Sonora Rally claimed two stage wins on her first event with South Racing and finished second. Juan Manuel Mãna of Spain rounded off the podium finishers. Enrico Gaspari had been an early pace-setter and led after the first stage before engine-related issues claimed his Polaris RXR Pro R Sport.

With the title already decided in favour of Rokas Baciuška, Shinsuke Umeda was able to round off a 100% finishing record on each of the five W2RC rounds with Italian navigator Maurizio Dominella category in his Xtreme Plus Polaris RZR Pro R Sport. The crew finished second in the W2RC points’ standings and third in Morocco sandwiched between the two FN Speed Team crews of Equador’s Sebastián Guayasamín and Fernando Acosta of Argentina and Rebecca Busi and Sergio Lafuente. Busi, however, was not classified in the final results.

Janus Van Kasteren confirms T5 title

Dutchman Janus van Kasteren and his crew of Darek Rodewald and Marcel Snijders confirmed victory in the W2RC’s T5 category on a dramatic event where title rivals and leaders Martin Macik, Frantisek Tomasek and David Svanda were disqualified after the fourth stage.

Event Stewards received a report from the FIA Technical Delegate after sealing and checking the compliance of the truck’s turbocharger restrictors on stage four. They were not deemed to be in compliance and Macik was disqualified with the right to appeal in accordance with Article 15 of the 2023 FIA International Sporting Code.

Both Iveco Powerstar crews had shared two stage wins apiece on the first four days but the Czech MM Technology crew were leading when the decision was made. Macik had won the Prologue - where Van Kasteren broke the windscreen and finished third - and the Dutchman was delayed on SS1 but fought back to eventually finish fourth overall and second in W2RC.

Tomas Vratny, Bartolomiej Boba and Jaromir Martinec were second in the points’ standings in their Fesh Bartlomiej Group-entered Ford Cargo after finishing fourth in Morocco and first in W2RC. The Dutch trio of Michiel Becx, Wuf Van Ginkel and Edwin Kuipers were not registered for the W2RC but claimed the overall win in Morocco in their Team de Rooy Iveco.

2023 Rallye du Maroc – final result (top 15):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 14hr 49min 09sec
2. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive15hr 23min 26sec
3. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Ford Ranger15hr 32min 12sec*
4. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15hr 46min 17sec
5. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive15hr 49min 22sec*
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country15hr 52min 57sec
7. Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA) Prodrive Hunter15hr 57min 28sec*
8. Marek Goczal (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)16hr 22min 12sec
9. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) Audi RS Q E-Tron (T1.U)16hr 34min 23sec
10. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)16hr 37min 19sec
11. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)16hr 43min 01sec
12. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA) Century CR6 Buggy (T1)17hr 00min 59sec*
13. Ignacio Casale (CHL)/Alvaro Leon (CHL) Yamaha T3 (T3)17hr 02min 20sec*
14. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) G Rally Team OT317hr 14min 32sec
15. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Taurus T3 Max (T3)17hr 18min 48sec


Select others

22. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Audi RS Q E-Tron (T1.U)18hr 36min 02sec
47. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Audi RS Q E-Tron (T1.U)27hr 55min 11sec
48. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux28hr 59min 10sec
51. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Prodrive Hunter34hr 34min 28sec
52. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus35hr 08min 22sec
53. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL) Prodrive Hunter 35hr 12min 11sec
54. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Alberto Andreotti (BRA) Prodrive Hunter35hr 12min 30sec*

*denotes not registered for W2RC

T1+ unless stated


Rally leaders

PrologueMattias Ekström (Audi)
SS1-SS3Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS4-SS5Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota)


Stage winners

PrologueMattias Ekström (Audi)
SS1Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS2Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS3Mattias Ekström (Audi)
SS4Stéphane Peterhansel (Audi)
SS5Orlando Terranova (Prodrive Hunter)