- Two punctures, fourth for SA team
- Tough day, starting with trail-breaking
- Essentially a Hilux/Mini challenge race
DOHA, Qatar – The first full racing stage of the 2017 Qatar Cross-Country Rally saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz post the fourth-fastest time, despite effectively opening the road.
They started the day second (after a draw for positions) – a pretty tough place to be – and had two punctures on the 334km stage, leaving them with no spare for the final 200km.
Poulter/Zitzewitz found themselves third after the previous day’s opening stage, 9.7sec behind early leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel in an identical South African-built Toyota Hilux.
They drew second on the road, however, which meant they started behind Miroslav Zapletal / Marek Sykora (H3 Evo VII), who drew the lead starting place.
Poulter said after arriving in the Doha bivouac: “With only a two-minute dust gap we caught up with Zapletal only 17km into the stage. We passed him – but that meant we were opening the road.”
‘AN EXCELLENT JOB’
The pair had their first puncture at 65km and that let Mini’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk overtake. A second puncture came at 130km, forcing the Toyota SA crew to be cautious for the stage’s final 200km.
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal Glyn Hall told The Corner: “Leeroy and Dirk did an excellent job. Conditions were tough, especially opening the road, but they pushed on and posted excellent times.
“The Hilux also ran like, well, a Toyota, and we’re very pleased with today’s result.”
The stage was won by Mini’s Jakub Prygonski / Tom Colsoul. Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk were second at 1min32 behind. Dutch Toyota Hilux crew Erik van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar were third fastest time, 3min57 behind Prygonksi/Colsoul.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz’ time put them in fourth in the overall standings, 5min38.8 behind race leader Prygonksi. Favourites and early leaders Al-Attiyah/Baumel’s gear-shifter snapped – and they had steering power-assistance problems – so fell back to sixth overall, 12min:20.1 behind the leaders.
THREE STAGES TO GO YET
Hall added: “Tomorrow’s stage will be another long one at 353km. It won’t be easy but at least Leeroy and Dirk will start fourth – that will help a lot.”
The 2017 Qatar Cross-Country has five stages and will finish in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday April 22. Day’s result under image.
Stage 2 result
1 Prygonski/Colsoul (Mini) 3hr19min:33.0
2 Al Rajhi/Gottschalk (Mini) +1min:32
3 Van Loon/Rosegaar (Toyota) +3min:57
4 Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +5min44
5 Abu Issa/Panseri (Mini) +7min08
Race positions after Stage 2
1 Prygonski/Colsoul (Mini) 3hr24min:15.0
2 Al Rajhi/Gottschalk (Mini) +1min:25
3 Van Loon/Rosegaar (Toyota) +3min59
4 Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +5min38
5 Abu Issa/Panseri (Mini) +7min13