AGADIR, Morocco – The 2015 Rally of Morocco will, for Giniel de Viliers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, always be a case of “what could have been”, especially if they hadn’t lost a mass of time on the rally’s opening stage.
Whatever, that’s behind them now after they capped a solid performance in Morocco by piloting their Dakar-spec Toyota Hilux to a stage win on the final day of the tough, five-day event.
“It was fantastic to win the final stage,” beamed an ecstatic De Villiers from the coastal city of Agadir where the rally ended on Friday (Oct 9). “Even more important, we achieved all our goals in terms of testing for the 2016 Dakar Rally, which is really why we came here in the first place.”
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz lost 12 minutes on the opening day of the rally when a driveshaft on their vehicle failed as they pulled away – leaving them with only rear-wheel drive for the 329km stage. They ended the event fourth overall, 19min22 behind overall winner Nasser al-Attiyah (Mini).
“Had we not lost all that time on Day 1 a podium step would’ve been a certainty and we may well have been able to challenge for victory,” De Villiers said after the race ended.
POULTER’S OLDER HILUX ‘STILL A FORCE’
As it turned out, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz finished just over two minutes behind another Hilux crew – Yazeed al Rajhi and his navigator Timo Gottschalk, who were 29sec behind Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev and navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov whose Hilux was second overall.
For the Toyota SA Dakar Team’s Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, who campaigned an older specification Toyota Hilux, the rally proved that, in the right hands, even older equipment can still be a force to be reckoned with.
They finished the rally sixth overall, 31min22 behind winner Al-Attiyah. That said, they were pipped to fifth place by WRC sensation Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) by 11sec – an incredibly tight race, considering the total race distance of 1358km.
“We had a great tussle with Mikko,” said Poulter, who was unwell for two days of the event, “but in the end he just managed to edge us out on the final stage.
“Still, a fantastic experience.”
The final standings showed Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah at the top of the leader board, followed by Vasilyev (+16:45), Al Rajhi (+17:14) and De Villiers (+19:22).
‘ECSTATIC ABOUT THE RESULT’
For Toyota the Rally of Morocco 2015 was a display of power, with five Toyota Hilux race vehicles in the Top 10. SA Dakar Team boss Glyn Hall said later:
“We are ecstatic about the result but more than that we are pleased b by amount of testing we managed to do for the Dakar. That was our prime objective so we can go home certain that we achieved all our test goals.”
The five-day Rally of Morocco started on Monday (Oct 5) in the southern city of Zagora. Daily stages in the area followed until the event relocated to the coastal near the city of Agadir on Oct 8. The event finished on Friday Oct 9 after a 237km stage known as The Loop of Agadir.
For the Toyota SA Dakar Team the race to Dakar is in top gear. There is still a mass of work to be done, including some final testing, before the 2016 Toyota Hilux vehicles are shipped to South America, early in December.
The Rally of Morocco was a crucial step in the team’s preparation, but there will be no let-up until the race vehicles are safely on their way to the Dakar.