Rabat, 10 October 2021 - Qatar rally ace Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah won the first stage of the Rally of Morocco yesterday to lead the overall Classifications. Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel had won the prologue on Friday, which defined the starting order for yesterday’s stages.
Al-Attiyah once again dominated the rally and won the 288-kilometre stage to lead his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Yazeed al-Rahji of Saudi Arabia by four minute 17 seconds. Ronan Chabot of France was third a further 15 minute 12 seconds behind the Qatari.
After the stage win, al-Attiyah said: “Not an easy stage. 300 kilometres with soft sand in the middle and the last part stony and rocky. But OK we did a really good job, no punctures. I think it is good to start the race like this. Tomorrow will be a long stage but we try and do our best. To be honest it wasn’t a good idea to pick tenth place this morning. Too much dust though we did manage to pass four cars in the dunes…”
A total of 288 kilometres of special stage were covered on the day, divided into three different segments, with the opening kilometres raced over fast, dusty tracks before moving on to some thirty kilometres of dunes in the heart of the Erg Chegaga. The competitor also encountered a very difficult navigational section with off-piste tracks, further hindered by the harsh weather conditions, where a mammoth sandstorm made for some fairly treacherous riding. The final part of the route played out on stony tracks.
Al-Attiyah is racing the same Toyota Hilfux which took him to second place at this year’s Dakar Rally. Al-Attiyah is aiming for his sixth title at Rally of Morocco, having won in the North African country from 2014-2018.
The Qatari is aiming to improve his position in the FIA’s World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. After three rounds, al-Attiyah is in second place in the standings, only half a point behind series leader Denis Krotov, and is two points clear of third place.
Meanwhile in the bike category, Honda’ Team occupied the entire today after the first stage with Joan Barreda snatching the overall race lead.
Barreda set a break-neck today and was soon leading the provisional timesheets. Team-mate Ricky Brabec followed in hot pursuit, with the pair completing the rest of the lengthy stage together. At the finish-line in Zagora, Barreda crossed 1 minute 10 seconds ahead of Brabec and almost three minutes clear of team-mate Pablo Quintanilla, who proved to be very nippy over the dusty tracks of the Chegaga.
Barreda said: “Really happy. It was not easy at the beginning with the dust from the other riders. Then when we got to the dunes I tried to push hard and found a good rhythm. After the dunes I saw a lot of riders confused but I stayed calm, found the right direction and saved a lot of time. After it was more straight forward and I rode a good stage.”
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah in action during the first stage of the Rally of Morocco yesterday.