Big dunes offered the crews competing in the Rally of Morocco a stern challenge today, as they tackled Stage 3 of the 5-day event. For the Toyota SA Dakar Team, the stage went without a hitch, as both crews moved up one position in the overall standings, after another solid performance.
Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz was fourth-fastest on today’s 273 km stage, which ended near the southern city of Zagora. This moved them up to 5th in the overall standings, just under five minutes behind the crew ahead of them.
For Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, today proved to be a real character builder, as they traversed a mass of dunes described even by De Villiers as ‘extremely tricky’. The pair were 6th-fastest today, despite driving an older specification Toyota Hilux, which uses a solid rear axle rather than the independent rear featured on the latest Dakar vehicles.
“Leeroy and Rob did a great job today,” said Toyota SA Dakar Team boss, Glyn Hall from Zagora. “They not only kept pace with more modern machines than their own, but they made up time too!”
Veteran rally driver and former Dakar winner, Carlos Sainz (Peugeot) again won the stage. This time the Spaniard’s winning margin was 03:56 over Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah (MINI). Finland’s Miko Hirvonen (MINI) came through in third place today, propelling him up three places in the standings, to 7th overall.
After three tough stages, it is Sainz who have a commanding lead of 05:20 over Al-Attiyah, with Russia’s Vladimir Vasiliyev (Toyota Hilux) in third. Yazeed al Rajhi (Toyota Hilux) dropped one position today, with De Villiers in 5th and Poulter in 6th.
“We have five Toyota Hiliux race vehicles in the Top 10, mid-way through the event,” continued Hall. “And while this is already a good result, we have three more Hiluxes hovering just outside the Top 10 – so things may even get better towards the end.”
Tomorrow will see the rally relocate to the coastal city of Agadir. Along the way, crews will first tackle the 293 km of Stage 4, before completing a liaison of 348 km. The terrain for tomorrow’s stage is varied, with lots of parallel tracks through the desert, placing a lot of emphasis on navigation.
The Rally of Morocco concludes on Friday October 9th, with a 237 km stage that starts and ends in Agadir.