GOOD DAY OUT: Toyota SA's Giniel de Villiers taking on the dunes during Stage 3 of the 2015 Morocco Rally. Image: Quickpic
Zagora, Morocco - Big dunes offered the crews competing in the Rally of Morocco a stern challenge on Wednesday (October 7), as they tackled Stage 3 of the five-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 Wednesday's 273km stage, which ended near the southern city of Zagora. The veterans move up to 5th in the overall standings, just under five minutes behind the crew ahead of them.
For Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, it 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 on Wednesday, despite driving an older specification Toyota Hilux, which uses a solid rear axle rather than the independent rear featured on the latest Dakar vehicles.
Toyota SA Dakar Team boss, Glyn Hall, said: "Leeroy and Rob did a great job on Wednesday. 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 Sainz's winning margin was 3min56 over Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini). Miko Hirvonen (Mini) came through in third, propelling him up three places in the standings, to 7th overall.
After three tough stages, it is Sainz who has a commanding lead of 5min20 over Al-Attiyah, with Russia's Vladimir Vasiliyev (Toyota Hilux) in third. Yazeed al Rajhi (Hilux) dropped one position, with De Villiers in 5th and Poulter in 6th.
Hall said: "We have five Toyota Hiliux race vehicles in the Top 10, mid-way through the event. 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."
Thursday will see the rally relocate to the coastal city of Agadir. Along the way, crews will first tackle the 293km of Stage 4, before completing a liaison of 348km. 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 237km stage that starts and ends in Agadir.