ZAGORA, MOROCCO – The opening stage (October 5th) of the 2015 Rally of Morocco proved a tough challenge for the Toyota SA Dakar Team, with Giniel de Villiers and German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) suffering a drive shaft problem on the start line, forcing them to complete the 330 km stage near the city of Zagora with only rear-wheel-drive. Teammates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, driving an older specification Toyota Hilux, lost time in thick dust, after catching one of the competitors who started ahead of them.
“Even so, Leeroy and Rob drove extremely well, and were third-fastest at the first checkpoint,” explains Toyota SA Dakar Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “They ended the day in sixth place, which sets them up nicely for Stage 2.”
Despite their problems, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz drove well to finish in ninth place, 12:12 behind early rally leaders, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (Toyota Hilux). The Saudi driver and his German navigator finished the opening stage with a lead of 17 seconds.
“Overall, Toyota enjoyed a good opening day,” continues Hall. “We’ve got Yazeed leading, with Russia’s Vladimir Vasiliyev in second place.”
Ricardo Porem (Portugal) and navigator Jorge Monteiro is in fifth place, also in a Toyota Hilux, and they are followed by Poulter/Howie in sixth. Last year’s winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Matthieu Baumel (MINI), are 01:38 off the early pace in third place, with Carlos Sainz and navigator Lucas Cruz (Peugeot) slotting into fourth overall. 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.
But that is the nature of cross-country racing, and Dutch driver Bernard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul (Toyota Hilux) might well have finished much higher up the order, had they not hit a rock that fractured the sump of their vehicle. They were forced to stop in order to add oil to the engine, and finished in 11th place despite their troubles.
The Rally of Morocco continues with Stage 2: 224 km of gravel, soft sand and dunes. The stage takes place in the general vicinity of Zagora, and is known as the Loop of Drâa. Three more stages will follow, with the event ending on October 9th in the coastal city of Agadir.
Fans can follow the fortunes of the Toyota SA Dakar team by visiting www.toyota.co.za, www.facebook.com/toyotasouthafrica or by following @toyotaSA on Twitter.
Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Dakar Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners:
Hallspeed, TFM, Castrol, SKF, Spanjaard, Robor, NGK, Donaldson, Mastercraft, Sat4Rent, Oakley, Edgecam, Reiger, Supreme Springs, FreeM, Bosch, Smiths Manufacturing and Shatterprufe. Also Duxbury Netgear, Innovation, Toyota Financial Services, SAA Cargo and Toyota.
Note to editors:
Difference between Cross-Country, Off-Road and Rally racing: The Morocco Rally, similar to Dakar, is a cross-country race where vehicles race between GPS waypoints as opposed to existing roads. In a rally (a la WRC) the cars race along closed roads. In an off-road race the competitors follow routes not suitable for cars, but they still have a set route to follow.
For the purpose of the Morocco Rally, the event is called a rally, though it doesn't conform to the definition of a traditional rally. It has timed race (stages) and liaison (open road) sections where they do not race against the clock, but still have to depart at certain predetermined times and clock in before a given deadline to avoid time penalties.
In a rally, competitors race in similar fashion, but use multiple short stages (up to 25-35km each; around 5 or 6 special stages per day; 2-3 days per event).
In off-road racing an event consists of one long stage on a single day only, and an event is usually run over 2 days.