ZAGORA, Morocco – The opening stage (October 5) of the 2015 Rally of Morocco proved a tough challenge for the Toyota SA Dakar Team.
The South African team – as well as rivals – are using the event in North Africa as a warm-up and shake down for the 2016 Dakar Rally in South America.
Giniel de Villiers and German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (Hilux) scored a driveshaft problem on the start line so had to complete the 330km stage near the city of Zagora with only rear-wheel-drive. (Check out the countryside!)
Team mates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, in an older Hilux, lost time in thick dust behind another competitor.
NICELY SET UP FOR ANOTHER DAY
Later Toyota SA Dakar team principal Glyn Hall told Carman’s Corner through a media release: “Even so, Leeroy and Rob drove extremely well and were third-fastest at the first checkpoint. They ended the day sixth, which set them up nicely for Stage 2 (Oct 6).”
Despite their problems, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz also drove well to finish ninth, 12min12 behind early leaders Yazeed al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (Hilux). The Saudi driver and his German navigator finished the opening stage with a lead of 17 seconds.
Hall added: “Overall, Toyota enjoyed a good opening day. We’ve got Yazeed leading, with Russia’s Vladimir Vasiliyev second.”
Ricardo Porem (Portugal) and navigator Jorge Monteiro (Hilux) were fifth, followed by Poulter/Howie while 2014 winner Nasser al-Attiyah and navigator Matthieu Baumel (Mini) were 1min38 off the early pace in third with Carlos Sainz and navigator Lucas Cruz (Peugeot) fourth.
SUMP HUMPS ROCK
Multiple WRC champion Sebastien Loeb and navigator Daniel Elena (Peugeot) lost more than three hours on the opening stage after their new vehicle ran into technical difficulties.
That’s the nature of cross-country racing; Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul (Hilux) might well have finished much higher up the order had they not hit a rock with their sump. They finished 11th after stops to top up their engine oil.
The Rally of Morocco continued today (Oct 6) with Stage 2: 224km of gravel, soft sand and dunes around the town of Zagora, the Loop of Drâa.
Three more stages will follow, with the event ending on October 9 in the beautiful coastal resort of Agadir.