Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 Rallye du Maroc: W2RC season comes to close in Stage 5

The 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship season wrapped up Wednesday with a “simple” 152-kilometre dash to Merzouga to conclude the Rallye du Maroc, but headlines and championship pictures pervaded the paddock entering the leg.

Ironically, none of the W2RC winners on Wednesday won the championship. Save for the attrition-heavy Open classes where Jérôme Cambier and Tomas Mickus were among the few to complete the rally, João Ferreira and Alexandre Giroud were the only Stage #5 winners who also claimed the overall in their categories.

Ferreira held off Sebastián Guayasamín to win in T4 by seventeen minutes, aided by the latter receiving a six-minute penalty. Giroud only needed to worry about Juraj Varga, but the latter struggled to a fifth-place finish that enabled Giroud to pull away for the Quad victory; Varga was still the highest finisher in the W2RC and thus received maximum points in that department.

With his fellow rivals dropping to the bottom of the T1 rankings on Tuesday, Yazeed Al-Rajhi was in the clear to win the overall after second-placed Stéphane Peterhansel stopped just twenty-eight kilometres into the stage with a mechanical issue, though he ultimately ended without any stage wins after getting a ten-second time penalty that allowed Orlando Terranova to win by five seconds. Terranova is the only driver besides Sébastien Loeb to win a W2RC stage in 2023 for Prodrive.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, with the title clinched and leading the overall until he and Loeb were among the Stage #4 victims, retired again after completing just six kilometres.

Gert Huzink won the stage in T5 after Janus van Kasteren, who locked up the championship following Martin Macík Jr.‘s disqualification, suffered a bizarre mechanical issue. Macík was allowed to start the final stage despite being disqualified, finishing second even if it is not reflected in the results.

“I think we were just in the lead there, but then we heard the hood of the rear superstructure hitting the cabin. Stopped for a moment and walked around the truck. Actually, I didn’t see anything,” van Kasteren explained. “We drove further, but the noise kept getting worse. I said, ‘I think we have a chassis problem.’ It started to sag, then we could not drive any further and had to use tension straps to strengthen the chassis. We worked on that for about three hours. We skipped the last part of the dunes. Otherwise, we were afraid the truck would break in half.

“To become world champion, we had to finish, so that was the most important thing. It happened fifty kilometres before the end, which is of course a shame. End of the rally, Michiel has won. Also fun and secured the world title.”

Mitch Guthrie and Paolo Lucci were too far back to catch their championship rivals, but still had some consolation by winning in T3 and Rally2.

Pablo Quintanilla won in RallyGP to sneak past Ross Branch for third overall behind Toby Price and freshly minted champion Luciano Benavides.

Stage #5 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 215 Orlando Terranova Bahrain Raid Xtreme 1:57:42
T2 251 Ronald Basso* Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body 3:05:57
T3 300 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 1:58:38
T4 403 João Ferreira South Racing Can-Am 2:10:31
T5 505 Gert Huzink* Riwald Dakar Team 2:20:07
RallyGP 7 Pablo Quintanilla Monster Energy Honda Rally Team 1:49:17
Rally2 31 Paolo Lucci BAS World KTM Racing Team 2:00:01
Rally3 165 Souleymane Addahri Africa Rallye Team 2:44:51
Quad 186 Alexandre Giroud* Drag’on Rally Team 2:26:56
Open Auto 601 Jérôme Cambier* MD Rallye Sport 2:30:46
Open SSV 653 Tomas Mickus* BRO Racing 2:40:36
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Overall winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 201 Yazeed Al-Rajhi Toyota Gazoo Racing 14:49:09
T2 250 Akira Miura* Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body 22:14:17
T3 315 Marek Goczał EnergyLandia Rally Team 16:22:12
T4 403 João Ferreira South Racing Can-Am 18:26:24
T5 506 Michiel Becx* Team de Rooy 21:32:34
RallyGP 8 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 15:56:43
Rally2 32 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 17:06:37
Rally3 164 Cheikh Yves Jacquemain Africa Rallye Team 23:42:39
Quad 186 Alexandre Giroud* Drag’on Rally Team 21:07:24
Open Auto 601 Jérôme Cambier* MD Rallye Sport 21:21:46
Open SSV 653 Tomas Mickus* BRO Racing 21:42:23
Road to Dakar 71 Toby Hederics* BAS World KTM Racing Team 19:11:16