HISTORIC HUSBAND AND WIFE WORLD CUP VICTORY; DE VILLERS/HARO WIN RALLYE DU MAROC
Stéphane and Andrea Peterhansel again made history by becoming the first husband and wife team to win the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies*. After hitting problems and dropping time in the penultimate leg of Rallye du Maroc, the MINI crew’s only hope of winning the title was to at least maintain their fifth position to the finish line after title rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel were forced to retire from Tuesday’s leg. In doing so, they won the title by a mere three points.
Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro won the Rallye du Maroc, the Toyota Hilux crew finishing the event in style with a stage victory en route to a 17 minute 42 second winning margin over MINI’s Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz. Privateers Mathieu Serradori and Fabian Lurquin provisionally finished third in their Century Racing CR6, but following post-event scrutineering the crew was disqualified for the car being underweight and all following competitors moved up the leaderboard.
Wednesday’s final leg took the crews from the Erfoud bivouac back towards Fes on a 168 kilometre selective section. De Villiers, third on road, started with a four minute 47 second advantage over Sainz, all too aware the Spaniard would be pushing hard for the win. The stage win, as Sainz hit problems, meant the South African took an impressive winning margin.
“It feels good, incredible,” said de Villiers, now a four time winner of Rallye du Maroc. “This one took a while to come, and it’s really special to win the rally first time out with Alex. Thank you to the team, they did a great job the whole week on the car. I am sorry for Nasser and Mathieu about the misfortune yesterday, but at least we were there to do it for the team. It’s a great win for Toyota and thank you to Alex for a great job navigating. There were some stressful times in the car, but I think we got along well together and the win definitely gives us confidence for the future.”
Sainz dropped time in the section, lucky to reach the finish line and maintain second overall courtesy of a tow from fellow MINI driver Jakub Przygoński. “We lost all the water, maybe a water pipe broke or something,” said the two-time FIA World Rally Champion. “I think it has been a very positive rally for the team and for us to get up to speed and learn about the car. I’m quite happy.”
Following Serradori’s disqualification, Przygoński and co-driver Timo Gottschalk ultimately finished on the podium in third, recovering well from their first day problems. “Today was a tricky stage with really narrow parts and a lot of stones, it was not so easy to drive fast,” said the Pole. “Mainly we were trying to survive. In the last 10 kilometres we saw Carlos Sainz and stopped to help and we towed him to the end. It’s about team spirit and he is on the finish line and still second; that’s good for the team result.”
After what initially looked like a hopeless situation following Tuesday’s accident, Stéphane and Andrea Peterhansel bounced back and claimed the much-needed position to become the first husband and wife team not only to win a round of the World Cup [Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge] but the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.
“It’s the first year together and it’s a lot of success,” said a delighted Stéphane, remarkably a first time winner of the FIA World Cup title. “We can be better but it was really nice to drive together. Yesterday it was possible to do the double; win the Morocco Rally and also the World Cup but we didn’t, it was too big a mistake. I was missing the World Cup title, I was never focused on this but we had the opportunity with X-Raid, with Mini, to do three races and we take this opportunity together and it’s nice, for sure. The first big emotion was when we won together the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, I think it was the first time a couple win a round of the World Cup, and now we win the World Cup so it’s really really nice. Big emotion inside the car and for sure a nice memory.”
Adding to his comments, Andrea said: “I feel good, it was like a rollercoaster! It was from hero to zero to hero again, incredible. It’s another thing when you do this with your partner, it’s not the same and the emotions are more so we are completely happy.”
Yazeed Al Rajhi, on his first rally with co-driver Michael Orr, was happy to reach the finish in fifth. “We had a lot of bad luck with punctures, but everything is okay with a new experience with my co-driver,” said the Saudi Arabian. “It’s the first time Michael is with me in the car and he doesn’t have a lot of experience of cross country, that’s why we were lost at one point. But finally we do it well.”
Nani Roma, in his new Borgward car, claimed sixth. “A new adventure started for me, a new challenge at the beginning of the rally,” said the Spaniard. “For the first two days it was hard for the team, and me too; we have different problems and I had two and half days like that. But in the end I’m really happy.”
Fernando Alonso, eighth in today’s final section, finished his first international cross country rally in 26th position. “I feel good,” said the Spaniard, co-driven by Marc Coma. “Obviously we had issues more or less every day, but we are learning from them and even today it was a very nice stage to drive, very nice landscape. But we had some difficulties and we got lost a couple of times, but even with these things I feel satisfied with the position, the time, and finishing Morocco rally is not as easy as it seems. We did it at the first attempt so I’m happy for that. Many things to learn now from my side for the future.”
The T3 title was won by Reinaldo Varela, the Brazilian navigated by Gustavo Gugelmin. The duo finished the event first in their category taking maximum points to head Fedor Vorobyev in the overall World Cup standings.
T2 in Morocco was won by Poland’s Tomasz Baranowski/Grzegorz Konczak, but Qatar’s Mohammed Al Meer had already secured the title after winning last time out in Kazakhstan.