The Toyota Imperial Hilux crew of Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz has completed six successful days of testing for the 2015 Dakar, when the Rally of Morocco drew to a close in Marrakech on Thursday 9 October.
The crew entered as much to win the race as to run a specific test programme in preparation for Dakar, but having incurred a substantial penalty on Stage 4, they had no choice but to focus on the test, rather than the overall result.
Despite this, De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz recorded the third-fastest time on Thursday’s short finale of 113 km.
The pair were 04:24 slower than stage and rally winner Nasser Al-Attyah of Qatar (MINI X-Raid), and three minutes behind Orlando Terranova of Argentina, who came second on today’s stage and second overall, in his MINI X-Raid.
In the overall standings it was Al-Attyah who led Terranova home by 01:42, with Dutch driver Erik van Loon bringing his MINI X-Raid to the finish in third overall, forty minutes behind Terranova.
The best of the Toyota Hilux drivers was Bernhard ten Brinke, who finished fifth overall in the Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz ended 17th overall, though without the 3.5-hour penalty they may well have finished in third place.
“The good news is that the Hilux ran perfectly this week,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after the event finished. “The hitch we had with the steering was a combination of bad luck and tough terrain, and we have already ensured that it won’t happen on the new vehicles we are building for Dakar 2015.”
The steering problem on Day 4 saw the crew elect to bypass a tricky dune crossing, which may well have been impossible with the damaged steering system. This resulted in a time penalty of three-and-a-half hours, dropping the Toyota Imperial Hilux down to 20th overall, effectively taking De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz out of the running.
“But we still had a lot of items to check for our Dakar campaign,” said Giniel de Villiers after the race, “so we pushed on and managed to win Stage 5 convincingly. And even more importantly, we completed all the tests we set out to do, so for us the Rally of Morocco was a great success.”
The pair started the rally by finishing Stage 1 in second place, just 22 seconds behind Terranova. They followed this up with another second place, this time 1:22 behind Al-Attyah. Stage 3 saw them post the fourth-fastest time, losing 3:35 to both Terranova and Al-Attyah, with Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke (Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux) pipping the South African driver by just 5 seconds for third on the day.
Then came Stage 4 and the resulting 3.5-hour penalty, dropping the Toyota Imperial Hilux all the way down to 20th overall – a devastating blow to what was otherwise a great race for De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz. They bounced back by winning Stage 5, and recorded the third-fastest time on the final stage to Marrakech.
With the Rally of Morocco behind them, the team can now focus on preparing the two brand new Toyota Imperial Hilux race vehicles for Dakar 2015. Construction of the new vehicles is already well underway at Toyota Motorsport’s Hallspeed HQ in Barbeque Downs, Gauteng.