SOLDIERING ON: SA Toyota team Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz had some steering problems on Wednesday but managed to win a tough stage. Image: Quickpic
MARRAKECH, Morocco - After a tough and frustrating day in the Southern Moroccon Desert on Tuesday (Oct 7) Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz bounced back on Wednesday for a stage victory.
The day covered 302km and took the teams to the ancient city of Marrakech.
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz were forced to miss a number of way points on the previous day, Tuesday, due to steering problems in very tricky conditions and fell to 20th overall, more than four hours behind leader Nasser al-Attyah (Mini).
However, with a list of items to test in preparation for Dakar 2015, they decided to push on with the test programme on Wednesday - a programme that included a completely different suspension set-up.
De Villiers said after the Hilux arrived in Marrakch: "The new set-up clearly worked well. The Hilux felt fast and stable throughout the stage and we managed to post very quick times despite getting stuck in various other crews' dust.
"Overtaking was difficult but we are very pleased with the result today."
The crew recorded a time 4min08 faster than that of Orlando Terranova (Mini), who came through next fastest. Defending Dakar champion Nani Roma, who had also been running with a significant penalty after dropping out on Stage 3, posted the third-fastest time in his Mini, with current event leader Al-Attyah following 1min46 behind Roma.
Wednesday's stunning stage win hasn't resulted in a significant move in the overall standings for De Villiers/ Von Zitzewitz. Due to their time penalty from Tuesday, the Toyota crew is still 17th overall, but the stage win certainly bolstered their spirits and filled them with confidence for the 2015 Dakar.
"We came here to test as much as to race," continued De Villiers, "and while meeting test objectives is great, there isn't any greater feeling than actually winning.
"And today was a big stage to win."
After five days of racing, Qatar's al-Attyah leads by only 1min15 from Argentina's Orlando Terranova. Dutch racer Erik van Loon (Mini) is 37min26 behind Terranova, with Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini) fourth and Toyota Hilux driver Bernhard ten Brinke fifth.
The Rally of Morocco will end today (Oct 10) with a short finale of 113km on the outskirts of Marrakech. This will bring to a close the rally of six stages, with a total race distance of 1442km - and the Toyota's test session in north-west Africa.