PRACTICE PAYING OFF: SA Toyota team Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz is currently second in the Rally of Morocco. Image: Toyota
ERFOUD, Morocco - Stage 2 of the Rally of Morocco saw crews traverse 211km of rough terrain, including a short dune crossing on Sunday (Oct 5). As with Saturday's opening stage, Toyota Hilux driver Giniel de Villiers ended second, just 1min22 behind the stage winner.
But while the opening stage was won by Orlando Terranova of Argentina (Mini), it was Qatar's Nasser Al-Attyah (Mini) who triumphed.
Last week Wheels24 reported that De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz would be preparing for the 2015 Dakar Rally.
De Villiers, with German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz reading the notes, posted a time of 2hr25.53 - just 1min22 behind Al-Attyah. More importantly it was 2min19 faster than the time posted by Terranova, who ended the stage in fourth. This performance sees De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz maintain their second position overall, with the gap to Al-Attyah, who now leads, just 39 seconds.
According to de Villiers, Sunday saw some close racing between themselves and early leader Terranova: "We caught him fairly quickly this morning, and managed to pass easily. But Orlando (Terranova) is a tough competitor, and he overtook us again some time later.
“We were stuck in his dust for quite a long time, but when we reached the dunes he made a mistake and we went past again."
This left De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz to pick their own way through the dunes, which they did without mishap, arriving at the bivouac first on Sunday, despite losing time to Al-Attiyah.
Team principal Glyn Hall said: "We had a small issue with the front brake pads this morning. The brakes were snatching rather than biting progressively, but despite this snag, the crew did us proud."
In the overall standings it is Al-Attiyah who now sets the pace, with De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz in second. Stage 1 winner, Terranova, has slipped down to third, with Erik van Loon of the Netherlands (Mini) in fourth. Bernhard ten Brinke, also of the Netherlands, rounds out the Top 5 in his Toyota Hilux.
The pair also had an excellent opening stage on Saturday, October 4...
Saturday's opening stage of the Rally of Morocco saw De Villiers/ Zitzewitz finish twenty seconds behind early leader, defending champion Orlando Terranova.
The pair powered their locally built Dakar-spec Toyota Hilux through the stage of 276km in 2hrs23.07, at an average speed of 115km/h.
The stage, which was run between the towns of Erfoud and Damia in the East of the country, offered crews a mix of terrain that included some spectacular dunes, similar to those encountered on the Dakar. But the stage also included some rough sections, especially early on - and this cost de Villiers the early lead of the rally.
De Villiers, said after the stage: "We started strong," said, "but unfortunately we had a puncture before the second checkpoint. This cost us a couple of minutes, but that's the nature of the game."
De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz were sixth at CP1, just 1min46 behind Terranova, but despite moving up to fourth overall by CP2 (at the 150km mark), the gap to Terranova had increased to 3min14 due to the puncture. Just 87km later, at CP3, the gap was down to a mere 19 seconds, clearly showing that the Hilux has the pace not only to match the Minis, but to deal serious blows if de Villiers has a clean run.
DAYS TO GO
De Villiers added: "We are very happy with the way the Hilux performed. It never missed a beat, and was it not for that puncture, we would've been leading the event for sure."
The Rally of Morocco takes place over six stages, with a total race distance of 1442km. Starting in the town of Erfoud, the route heads North and West to Cheggaga via Damia and Merzane, before a grand finale in Marrakech.
It will finish on Thursday October 9.