AGADIR, Morocco – The fourth and penultimate stage of the 2015 Rally of Morocco on Thursday (Oct 8) proved a tough challenge for for not only the Toyota SA Dakar Team but also rally leader Carlos Sainz (Peugeot).
While Sainz was forced to retire with technical problems both Toyota SA Dakar Team crews not only survived the stage but also improved on their overnight positions.
The drive of the day had to go to Leeroy Poulter who started the 293km Stage 4 plagued by waves of nausea and fever. The going was tough and to make matters worse the pair had two punctures early in the stage, losing substantial time with the changes. Then, despite the illness, and the fact that he and navigator Rob Howie are in an older spec Hilux, they managed to maintain their position in the order.
POULTER/HOWIE POST NINTH-FASTEST
SA team boss Glyn Hall told The Corner: “Leeroy really struggled this morning but managed to focus on the job at hand. They posted ninth-fastest of the day – astounding if you consider the cars ahead of them.”
With Sainz falling by the wayside, Poulter/Howie’s drive on Thursday saw them move up into fifth place in the overall standings to 9min20 behind team mates and Dakar Rally winners Giniel de Villiers and his navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz who also found the stage tricky but caught and passed one of the competitors ahead of them quite early on.
De Villiers said: We had a puncture shortly after that and had to stop for a tyre change. Not long after the guys ahead of us also had a puncture but they pulled in just ahead of us and we had to sit in their dust for about 170km.”
Despite this setback, De Villiers/ Von Zitzewitz posted fifth fastest on the day and, with Sainz out of the picture, found themselves fourth overall and five minutes behind fellow Toyota Hilux driver Vladimir Vasiliyev of Russia.
A 237km final stage on Friday beckoned.
IT’S NOT OVER YET…
As things stood on Thursday, it was defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah (Mini) leading by just more than 16min from Toyota’s Yazeed al Rajhi, the leader of a pack of four Toyota Hilux race vehicles occupying second to fifth place in the overall standings.
The Rally of Morocco will finish on Friday (Oct 9) with a 237km stage that starts and ends in the city of Agadir. The stage, known as The Loop of Agadir, follows a series of narrow tracks that will keep the drivers on their toes.
While it may not be the longest stage of the five-stage rally by any means, Stage 5 can still trip unwary competitors and, as always with motorsport, it isn’t over until the dust settles.