South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers and German co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz were forced to incur a substantial time penalty for missing a checkpoint on Stage 4 of the Rally of Morocco. The pair was holding steady in third place overall, after three tough days of racing in the South of the country, but a steering unit that was being tested on their Toyota Imperial Hilux was damaged by the very rough terrain and hidden rocks. “We started pretty strong this morning and at the first checkpoint we were just one second behind Bernhard (Ten Brinke, in the Overdrive Toyota Hilux). We had to keep pushing, but the dust made it very difficult to accurately read the terrain,” said Giniel de Villiers after returning to the bivouac at Cheggaga.
With some large dunes on Tuesday’s stage of 226 km, De Villiers had hoped to use the opportunity to make up time without the worry of excessive dust, and also to test some dune-specific setups for Dakar. But it wasn’t to be, and the pair elected to miss a checkpoint in the dunes, rather than risk retirement by tackling terrain that would be impossible with the damaged steering. They will be able to restart tomorrow, but under a severe penalty, and as such would stand no chance of recording a competitive finish.
“But remember that we came here not only to race, but also to test for the 2015 Dakar. And as such it is definitely worth continuing. Giniel’s decision not to push on into the dunes was spot on – in these circumstances, testing comes first. Realistically Morocco offers the best possible terrain for simulating Dakar conditions, so we must push on and achieve our testing objectives regardless of today’s result,” explained Team Principal Glyn Hall at the end of the frustrating day. Tuesday’s stage was won by Qatar’s Nasser Al Attyah (MINI X-Raid), with Argentine Orlando Terranova (MINI X-Raid) coming in second, 02:50 back. Fellow Argentine Lucio Alvarez (Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux) came through third fastest, with a time 05:11 slower than the stage-winning Al-Attyah.
In the overall standings, it is Al-Attyah who holds a 3:30 lead over Terranova; who in turn leads Ten Brinke by just over 24 minutes. Wednesday’s stage is a massive 302 km in length, and sees the remaining crews tackle the terrain between the town of Zagora and the city of Marrakech. The Rally of Morocco ends on Thursday 9th October with a short finale of 113 km.