Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 Rallye du Maroc: Mattias wins Stage 3 as Matthias crashes out

The Rallye du Maroc‘s RallyGP body count added another victim Monday when Matthias Walkner crashed just 400 metres after starting Stage #3. On the four-wheeled side, his similarly named peer Mattias Ekström snapped Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s stage win streak, barely beating the newly crowned World Rally-Raid Champion for the T1 victory by just six seconds.

The top three in T1 was separated by fourteen seconds with Sébastien Loeb in third. Ekström took the lead from Guerlain Chicherit after the first waypoint while Al-Attiyah and Loeb followed. Both tried to narrow the gap but ran out of time and Ekström scored Audi’s second stage win of 2023.

Despite the win, Ekström is nearly an hour and forty minutes back of Al-Attiyah in the overall due to a missed waypoint penalty in Stage #1. Al-Attiyah, who clinched his second consecutive title on Sunday, leads Loeb by 6:16. Chicherit, a new Toyota colleague of Al-Attiyah who previously raced a Prodrive like Loeb, dropped to tenth after being caught up in dust left behind by the leaders.

Ekström’s Team Audi Sport team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel finished sixth while Carlos Sainz suffered a mechanical issue after 112 kilometres that forced him to stop for two hours to make repairs.

Vehicle gremlins also attacked T3 championship leader Mitch Guthrie, which his Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team allies Seth Quintero and Austin Jones seized upon. Although both missed the stage podium, Guthrie’s exit moves Jones up to third in the general classification while Quintero’s new closest rival for the overall is Marek Goczał, who is four-and-a-half minutes back (Guthrie trailed Quintero by 1:22 after Sunday).

Goczał lost the stage victory to Francisco Lopéz Contardo by forty-nine seconds. Lopéz, the reigning T3 champion, found some reprieve after retiring from Stage #1 with a destroyed fuel pump. Goczał’s son Eryk‘s car woes since winning Stage #1 continued as he suffered an engine failure; a similar fate befell T4 driver Enrico Gaspari, who won his class on Saturday before his motor expired on back-to-back days.

Walkner joined Ricky Brabec, Skyler Howes, and Sam Sunderland on the retirement list after hitting a rock on the track that caused him to slide off his bike and nearly tumble into a tree. Beyond bruises and a swollen hand, he did not receive serious injuries though the his bike’s own wounds were enough to knock him out of the rally.

His Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate Toby Price took both the rally overall and W2RC points leads by finishing second to Tosha Schareina; although Schareina scored his second stage win in a row, he is not racing for points which made Price the stage victor among eligible riders. Price and Luciano Benavides were tied at 91 points each entering Monday’s stage, but the former’s runner-up and latter’s sixth leaves Benavides fourth and 8:48 back of Price overall. Ross Branch lost the outright lead as he placed fifth.

The points scramble also extended to the two-race T5 class as Janus van Kasteren and Martin Macík Jr. continued to trade blows. Macík took victory on Monday by seven minutes after passing van Kasteren in the closing fifty kilometres and remains atop the overall by 1:33:38. As the Dakar Rally winner, van Kasteren can still win the title despite being so far behind Macík provided further setbacks do not occur and he adds enough stage points over the final two days.

Rally2 championship leader Romain Dumontier built distance on second-placed Paolo Lucci by winning the stage while Lucci’s GPS malfunctioned, meaning he had to navigate using instinct and the course laid out by those in front of him.

Ardit Kurtaj has the Rally3 title all but secured after Massimo Camurri, who trailed by twenty points entering Morocco, retired prior to Monday due to terminal bike damage in a Stage #2 crash.

Stage #3 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 206 Mattias Ekström Team Audi Sport 2:56:36
T2 251 Ronald Basso* Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body 4:17:34
T3 304 Francisco Lopéz Contardo Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 3:20:18
T4 410 Sara Price* South Racing Can-Am 3:48:26
T5 501 Martin Macík Jr. MM Technology 3:33:21
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 3:05:35
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier Team Dumontier Racing 3:24:03
Rally3 164 Cheikh Yves Jacquemain Africa Rallye Team 4:20:23
Quad 183 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 4:01:01
Open Auto 601 Jérôme Cambier* MD Rallye Sport 3:57:20
Open SSV 656 Talutis Algirdas* BRO Racing 4:06:57
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #3

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 9:04:43
T2 250 Akira Miura* Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body 13:42:05
T3 302 Seth Quintero Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 10:16:29
T4 403 João Ferreira South Racing Can-Am 12:02:20
T5 501 Martin Macík Jr. MM Technology 12:11:57
RallyGP 9 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 10:25:02
Rally2 32 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 11:12:52
Rally3 164 Cheikh Yves Jacquemain Africa Rallye Team 15:08:43
Quad 183 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 12:59:00
Open Auto 601 Jérôme Cambier* MD Rallye Sport 13:39:46
Open SSV 653 Tomas Mickus* BRO Racing 13:36:13