Stunning stage win for De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz on Rally of Morocco
After a tough and frustrating day in the Southern Moroccon Desert on Tuesday, the Toyota Imperial Hilux pairing of Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, bounced back on Wednesday to record an impressive stage victory. Stage 5 of the 6-stage event was 302 km in length, and saw the teams finally arrive in the city of Marrakech.
De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were forced to miss a number of waypoints (on Tuesday’s 4th stage, due to steering problems experienced in very tricky conditions. As such they dropped down to 20th overall, more than four hours behind leader Nasser Al-Attyah (MINI X-Raid). But with a list of items to test in preparation for Dakar 2015, they decided to push on with the testing programme on Wednesday – a programme that included a completely different suspension setup.
“The new setup clearly worked well for us,” said de Villiers after arriving in Marrakech. “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 as always, but we are very pleased with the result today.”
De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz recorded a time 04:08 faster than the time posted by Orlando Terranova (MINI X-Raid), 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 X-Raid, with current event leader Al-Attyah following 1:46 behind Roma.
Wednesday’s stunning stage win hasn’t resulted in a significant move in the overall standings for De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz. Due to their time penalty from Tuesday, the Toyota Imperial Hilux crew is still in 17th position 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, it is Qatar’s Al-Attyah who lead by just 1:15 from Argentina’s Orlando Terranova. Dutch racer Erik van Loon (MINI X-Raid) is 37:26 behind Terranova, with Vladimir Vasilyev (MINI VRT) in fourth and Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux driver Bernhard ten Brinke in fifth.
The rally of Morocco draws to an end on Thursday, with a short finale of 113 km on the outskirts of the city of Marrakech. This will bring to a close the rally of six stages, with a total race distance of 1,442 km.