Toy­ota crews do well in Morocco

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

ZAGORA, MOROCCO — The open­ing stage (Oc­to­ber 5th) of the 2015 Rally of Morocco proved a tough chal­lenge for the Toy­ota SA Dakar Team.

Giniel de Vil­liers and Ger­man nav­i­ga­tor Dirk von Zitze­witz (Toy­ota Hilux) had a drive shaft prob­lem at the start, forc­ing them to com­plete the 330 km stage near the city of Zagora with only rear-wheel-drive.

Team-mates 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. 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, which the Rally of Morocco mixes with the best el­e­ments of rally rac­ing to make life ex­tra chal­leng­ing for driv­ers. The Rally has timed stages where driv­ers race, and open road sec­tions where they do not race against the clock, but still have to de­part at set times to avoid time penal­ties.

Fans can fol­low the for­tunes of the Toy­ota SA Dakar team by vis­it­ing www.toy­ota.co.za, or on @toy­otaSA on Twit­ter. — WR.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

Leeroy Poul­ter and Rob Howie set the third fastest time driv­ing in Morocco in their older spec­i­fi­ca­tion Toy­ota Hilux, they were slowed only by thick dust on the first day of rac­ing.

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