Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 Rallye du Maroc: Yazeed Al-Rajhi completes Toyota T1 season sweep

If three Dakar Rallies and two World Rally-Raid Championships aren’t enough to convince people that the Toyota Hilux is the top rally raid vehicle today, how about the Hilux winning all five W2RC races in 2023?

Toyota had already clinched the manufacturer’s championship at the penultimate round in Argentina, but put the cherry atop their title at the Rallye du Maroc as Yazeed Al-Rajhi recorded his second win of 2023 after the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. He led a 1–2 finish for Overdrive Racing with Denis Krotov in tow, the latter scoring his best career W2RC finish.

Both of Al-Rajhi’s W2RC wins came on consistency as he failed to win any stages but the frontrunners dropped out. Al-Rajhi himself never finished worse than fifth across the five days.

Nasser Al-Attiyah only needed four points to secure the title when he led Al-Rajhi by fifty-one entering Morocco. He and his Hilux quickly achieved that by winning the first two stages, and he looked poised to claim his fourth victory in five races. The latter ended up falling apart in Stage #4 when one of the rear driveshafts broke, forcing him to drive in front-wheel-drive before the resulting strain led to the right front driveshaft giving way too. He bowed out of the rally altogether on the fifth and final leg with a crash just ten kilometres in. The same had occurred in Abu Dhabi when he won the first three stages only to crash out while Al-Rajhi took the win.

While certainly not an ideal end to the season and possibly his Toyota tenure as his free agency status remains in the air for 2024, Al-Attiyah still waltzed away with the title by twenty-four points on Al-Rajhi. Juan Cruz Yacopini finished fourth overall and third among W2RC competitors to secure a Toyota podium sweep of the final standings.

“2023 has been a fantastic year for the TGR W2RC team,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing W2RC boss Alain Dujardyn. “We started by winning the Dakar Rally and, after great determination and excellent teamwork, managed to secure all three W2RC titles. This is the second consecutive year of W2RC success for us, an achievement we’re all very happy to celebrate.

“I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all the engineers, mechanics, agencies and sponsors involved in our 2023 campaign. Without their collective efforts, as well as those of the drivers and co-drivers, we would have been able to achieve all our goals. Finally, I would also like to thank the wider Toyota family in the service park, including the privateers who campaign in our cars. Their sportsmanship and camaraderie throughout the season have been without equal, and it is a pleasure to continually push the limits for better together. The GR DKR Hilux T1+ has proven its strength and durability once again, and we look forward to embarking on a further journey with this magnificent car in 2024 and beyond.”

While Toyota reigned supreme for yet another season, Team Audi Sport had plenty to look forward to as they prepare for their swan song Dakar Rally in 2024. After a disastrous Dakar in January and soul searching over the next few months, the team returned to the W2RC with a vengeance in Morocco as Mattias Ekström won the Prologue and beat Al-Attiyah for the Stage #3 win on pace, though he was already out of overall contention due to an hour-long penalty for missing a waypoint on the first stage.

Even with Ekström unable to contend for the overall, team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel picked up the slack by winning Stage #4. It was the Dakar legend’s first stage victory in the world championship since the 2022 Rallye du Maroc‘s final day as an Open Car entry. Peterhansel narrowed the gap to just 3:49 behind Al-Rajhi going into the last stage, only for Audi’s Dakar demons to haunt him again in the first thirty kilometres.

Bahrain Raid Xtreme, Toyota’s primary rival in the championship, skipped Argentina to focus on Morocco even if it meant sacrificing Sébastien Loeb‘s hopes of vying for the title. Unfortunately for the Prodrive programme, Loeb was another Stage #4 victim as he crashed into a ditch while running second overall. Orlando Terranova salvaged the race for the team by winning the next day, though a broken suspension in Stage #2 prevented him from making inroads in the general ranking. Non-championship driver Cristian Baumgart was the lone Prodrive Hunter in the top ten.

Krzysztof Hołowczyc finished twenty-second after his Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus‘s power steering failed from the very first stage. He spent the rest of the rally trying to manage the steering along with suspension issues. While the struggles prevented Hołowczyc from bolstering Mini’s standing in the manufacturer’s championship, Prodrive’s own troubles allowed Mini to hang on for third by just two points.

“It was very hard because we were driving at the limit of our car to see how much we could push the car and where our limits are,” Hołowczyc recapped. “The amazing thing is that all the factory cars had problems, the cars were stopped on the stages due to breakdowns, and we practiced the same. After six days, we are much smarter about the endurance of the car and what we can afford. We have to remember that the Dakar, for which this rally was a test, is very long and we have to make sure the car is in one piece. There the winners are at the finish line. We survived the Rallye du Maroco, Łukasz (Kurzeja) improved navigation a lot and we can say that the next step is done.”

Despite not competing for points, Nani Roma impressed in the maiden W2RC race for the M-Sport Ford Ranger, finishing third overall.

As is customary, the rally serves as a dress rehearsal for those running the 2024 Dakar Rally, meaning T1 was filled with unique names hoping to experiment in new rides. Guillaume de Mévius was one of these drivers as the T3 regular finished twelfth in his first T1 start. Pau Navarro, who had a bigger jump from T4 to T1, quickly impressed as the top T1.1 subcategory driver though was set back by a broken driveshaft and tyre punctures.

T1 overall results

Finish Number Driver Co-Driver Team Class Time Margin
1 201 Yazeed Al-Rajhi Timo Gottschalk Overdrive Racing T1+ 14:49:09 Leader
2 210 Denis Krotov Konstantin Zhiltsov Overdrive Racing T1+ 15:23:26 + 34:17
3 211 Nani Roma* Alex Haro Bravo M-Sport Ford World Rally Team T1+ 15:32:12 + 43:03
4 202 Juan Cruz Yacopini Daniel Oliveiras Overdrive Racing T1+ 15:46:17 + 57:08
5 225 Eugenio Amos* Paolo Ceci Overdrive Racing T1+ 15:49:22 + 1:00:13
6 205 Martin Prokop Viktor Chytka ORLEN Benzina Team T1+ 15:52:57 + 1:03:48
7 223 Marcos Baumgart* Kleber Cincea X Rally Team T1+ 15:57:28 + 1:08:19
8 206 Mattias Ekström Emil Bergkvist Team Audi Sport T1.U 16:34:23 + 1:45:14
9 228 Lionel Baud* Lucie Baud Century Racing T1.2 17:00:59 + 2:11:50
10 235 Michael Van Eikeren* Jasper Riezebos Dakar Team Van Eikeren T1.2 17:25:14 + 2:36:05
11 230 Jean-Rémy Bergounhe* Lionel Costes MD Rallye Sport T1.2 17:47:47 + 2:58:38
12 216 Guillaume de Mévius* François Cazalet Overdrive Racing T1+ 18:04:32 + 3:15:23
13 227 Isidre Esteve* José Maria Villalobos Valcarcel Repsol Toyota Rally Team T1+ 18:11:52 + 3:22:43
14 209 Carlos Sainz Lucas Cruz Team Audi Sport T1.U 18:36:02 + 3:46:53
15 232 Benoit Fretin* Cédric Duplé YDEO Competition T1.2 18:55:29 + 4:06:20
16 233 Urvo Männama* Risto Lepik Rally Raid Estonia T1.2 19:31:45 + 4:42:36
17 234 Gintas Petrus* Jose Marques Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics T1.2 20:22:45 + 5:33:36
18 208 Stéphane Peterhansel Édouard Boulanger Team Audi Sport T1.U 27:55:11 + 13:06:02
19 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Mathieu Baumel Toyota Gazoo Racing T1+ 28:59:10 + 14:10:01
20 217 Jean-Luc Ceccaldi Thomas Gaidella MD Rallye Sport T1.2 34:21:19 + 19:32:10
21 215 Orlando Terranova Bernardo Graue Bahrain Raid Xtreme T1+ 34:34:28 + 19:45:19
22 212 Krzysztof Hołowczyc Łukasz Kurzeja X-raid Team T1+ 35:08:22 + 20:19:13
23 203 Sébastien Loeb Fabian Lurquin Bahrain Raid Xtreme T1+ 35:12:11 + 20:23:02
24 222 Cristian Baumgart* Alberto Andreotti X Rally Team T1+ 35:12:30 + 20:23:21
25 226 Simon Vitse* Frédéric Lefebvre MD Rallye Sport T1.2 35:35:34 + 20:46:25
26 219 Pau Navarro Gonçalo Reis FN Speed Team T1.1 37:20:23 + 22:31:14
27 229 Maik Willems* Robert Van Pelt Dakar Team Van Eikeren T1.1 38:51:36 + 24:02:27
DNF 207 Guerlain Chicherit Alex Winocq Overdrive Racing T1+ DNF N/A
DNF 214 Mathieu Serradori Loïc Minaudier Century Racing T1.2 DNF N/A
DNF 218 Magdalena Zajac Jacek Czachor Proxcars TME Rally Team T1.1 DNF N/A
DNF 231 Daniel Alonso Villaron* Alejandro Lopez Fernandez Past Racing T1.1 DNF N/A
DNF 236 Patrice Étienne* Antoine Sanchez YDEO Competition T1.2 DNF N/A
DNF 237 Frédéric Tuheil* Jean-Jacques Martinez Sodicars Racing T1.1 DNF N/A
DNF 238 Henk de Jong* Pieter van Kruijsdijk Dakar Team Van Eikeren T1.1 DNF N/A

T1 stage winners

Stage Driver Time
Prologue Mattias Ekström 10:19.8
Stage #1 Nasser Al-Attiyah 3:15:32
Stage #2 Nasser Al-Attiyah 2:52:29
Stage #3 Mattias Ekström 2:56:36
Stage #4 Stéphane Peterhansel 3:30:49
Stage #5 Orlando Terranova 1:57:42

Overall winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 201 Yazeed Al-Rajhi Toyota Gazoo Racing 14:49:09
T2 251 Ronald Basso* 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 Bike 71 Toby Hederics* BAS World KTM Racing Team 19:11:16
Road to Dakar SSV 420 William Grarre* Team Horizon Off-Road 21:50:39

W2RC standings

Unlike T3 and T4, T1 does not have its own standings and instead uses a championship in which the aforementioned categories can also earn points based on their finishes among all FIA W2RC entries.

Drivers’ standings

Rank Driver Points Margin
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah 205 Leader
2 Yazeed Al-Rajhi 181 – 24
3 Juan Cruz Yacopini 132 – 73
4 Sébastien Loeb 112 – 93
5 Sebastian Halpern 89 – 116
6 Martin Prokop 81 – 124
7 Mattias Ekström # 77 – 128
8 Denis Krotov 64 – 141
9 Guerlain Chicherit 56 – 149
10 Seth Quintero 48 – 157
11 Austin Jones 43 – 162
12 Mitch Guthrie 38 – 167
T-13 Cristina Gutiérrez 31 – 174
T-13 Guoyu Zhang 31 – 174
T-13 Wei Han 31 – 174
16 Rokas Baciuška # 24 – 181
17 Mathieu Serradori 22 – 183
18 João Ferreira # 20 – 185
19 Marek Goczał # 19 – 186
20 Francisco Lopéz Contardo 15 – 190
21 Carlos Sainz 11 – 194
T-22 Stéphane Peterhansel 10 – 195
T-22 Claude Fournier 10 – 195
T-24 David Zille 9 – 196
T-24 Zi Yunliang 9 – 196
T-24 Pau Navarro # 9 – 196
T-24 Orlando Terranova 9 – 196
T-28 Kees Koolen # 8 – 197
T-28 Eryk Goczał 8 – 197
30 Dania Akeel 7 – 198
31 Aliyyah Koloc 6 – 199
32 Jean-Luc Ceccaldi 5 – 200
33 Shinsuke Umeda 2 – 203
34 Michal Goczał # 1 – 204
Erik Van Loon # 0 – 205
# – Competed in multiple classes
Italics – T3 entry
Underscore – T4 entry

Co-drivers’ standings

Co-drivers do not earn points if their driver is not competing for the W2RC.

Rank Co-Driver Driver Points Margin
1 Mathieu Baumel Nasser Al-Attyah 205 Leader
2 Timo Gottschalk Yazeed Al-Rajhi 162 – 43
3 Daniel Oliveiras Juan Cruz Yacopini 132 – 73
4 Fabian Lurquin Sébastien Loeb 112 – 93
5 Bernardo Graue Sebastian Halpern, Orlando Terranova 98 – 107
6 Viktor Chytka Martin Prokop 81 – 124
7 Emil Bergkvist # Mattias Ekström # 77 – 128
8 Konstantin Zhiltsov Denis Krotov 64 – 141
9 Alex Winocq Guerlain Chicherit 56 – 149
10 Dennis Zenz Seth Quintero 48 – 157
11 Gustavo Gugelmin Austin Jones 43 – 162
12 Kellon Walch Mitch Guthrie 38 – 167
T-13 Ma Li Wei Han 31 – 174
T-13 Pablo Moreno Huete Cristina Gutiérrez 31 – 174
15 Oriol Mena # Eryk Goczał #, Guoyu Zhang 29 – 176
16 Oriol Vidal Montijano # Rokas Baciuška # 24 – 181
17 Loïc Minaudier Mathieu Serradori 22 – 183
T-18 Dirk Von Zitzewitz Yazeed Al-Rajhi 19 – 186
T-18 Maciej Marton # Marek Goczał # 19 – 186
20 Filipe Palmeiro # João Ferreira # 12 – 193
T-21 Bruno Jacomy Hernán Garcés, Lucas Del Rio* 11 – 194
T-21 Szymon Gospodarczyk # Michal Goczał #, Claude Fournier 11 – 194
T-21 Lucas Cruz Carlos Sainz 11 – 194
T-24 Jean-Pierre Garcin Guoyu Zhang 10 – 195
T-24 Édouard Boulanger Stéphane Peterhansel 10 – 195
T-26 François Cazalet # Guillaume de Mévius, Pau Navarro 9 – 196
T-26 Sha He Zi Yunliang 9 – 196
T-26 Sebastian Cesana David Zille 9 – 196
T-29 Manuel Porem João Ferreira, Rui Carneiro* 8 – 73
T-29 Wouter Rosegaar Kees Koolen 8 – 73
31 Sébastien Delaunay # Erik van Loon # 7 – 74
32 Stéphane Duple Aliyyah Koloc 6 – 199
33 Cédric Duplé # Jean-Luc Ceccaldi, Benoit Fretin* 5 – 200
34 Juan Pablo Latrach Francisco López Contardo, Hernán Garcés* 4 – 201
35 Maurizio Dominella Shinsuke Umeda 2 – 203
Alex Haro Bravo Orlando Terranova, Nani Roma* 0 – 205

Manufacturers’ standings

Rank Manufacturer Points Margin
1 Toyota 230 Leader
2 Mini 127 – 103
3 Prodrive 125 – 105
BAIC 0 – 230
\