Another strong performance on today’s stage, the third of this year’s Qatar Cross Country Rally, saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Leeroy Poulter and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) move up the leaderboard into second place in the overall standings. They now trail rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Hilux) by just 3:23.7, with two long stages remaining in the race.
Today’s stage comprised 353km of rough terrain, with exceptionally tricky navigation. Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal Glyn Hall described the race so far as “a steep learning curve” for Poulter, though the defending South African Cross Country champion has done a sterling job so far.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz posted the third-fastest time on the short opening stage, and the fourth-fastest on Stage 2, despite having to open most of the road and suffering two punctures on the day. However, Stage 3 brought a better road position, and a chance for Poulter to attack.
“We pushed a bit today, though the terrain is very rough in places,” said Poulter after finishing the day’s stage. “But the car ran extremely well, and we were able to improve our position in the overall standings to second place.”
Stage 3 was won by Al Attiyah/Baumel, whose local knowledge of the route certainly helped. They blitzed the entire field, winning by more than 9 minutes, and retaking the lead of the rally after losing it yesterday, due mainly to a broken gear lever. Next-fastest were Sheikh Kalid Al Qassimi and navigator Khalid Al Kendi in their ex-works Peugeot, with Mohammed Abu Issa and navigator Xavier Panseri third, in their MINI.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz finished the stage in fourth, just 28 seconds behind Abu Issa/Panseri. Only a single minute separated the cars in second, third and fourth positions.
“We’re extremely pleased with the way Leeroy and Dirk performed today,” said Hall. “It is Leeroy’s first time here, his first time with Dirk, and a lot of stiff competition. Add to that rough terrain and very difficult navigation, and we can’t help but be elated at their move into second place.”
Al Attiyah/Baumel now hold a 3:23.7 lead over Poulter/Von Zitzewitz, who in turn have Abu Issa/Panseri 1:06.3 behind them.
“Tomorrows stage could be another good one for Leeroy and Dirk. Finishing fourth on today’s stage means they’ll be the fourth car to start in the morning, with the cars ahead of them hopefully helping with the navigation,” Hall concluded.
Stage 4 features a mix of terrain types, including some dune crossings, and is 337km in length. The Qatar Cross Country Rally concludes in Doha on Saturday, April 22nd, after the fifth and final stage of 343km.