- SA team moves up to second in Doha rally
- Fourh-place start helped navigation
- Al-Attiyah leading SA driver Poulter
DOHA, Qatar – Another strong performance on Thrursday’s (April 20) stage, the third of the 2017 Qatar Cross-Country Rally, saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Leeroy Poulter and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) move up the leader board to second in the overall standings.
They now trail rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Hilux) by 3min23.7, with two long stages remaining today (Friday) and Saturday.
Thursday’s stage was across 353km of rough terrain, with exceptionally tricky navigation. Toyota team principal Glyn Hall described the race so far as “a steep learning curve” for Poulter, though the defending SA cross-country champion had done a sterling job so far.
CHANCE TO ATTACK
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz posted the third-fastest time on the short opening stage and 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,” Poulter reported 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, the Toyota team said, was won by Mini crew Al-Attiyah/Baumel, whose local knowledge of the route certainly helped. They blitzed the entire field, winning by more than nine minutes, and retaking the rally lead after losing it the previous day due mainly because of a broken gear-shifter.
PREVIOUS DAYS’ STAGE REPORTS
Next-fastest were Sheikh Kalid Al-Qassimi and navigator Khalid Al-Kendi in an ex-works Peugeot, with Mohammed Abu Issa and navigator Xavier Panseri third a in another Mini.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz finished the stage fourth, 28sec behind Abu Issa/Panseri. Only a minute covered the cars in second, third and fourth.
Hall reported after the stage: “We’re extremely pleased with the way Leeroy and Dirk performed today. It’s Leeroy’s first time here, his first time with Dirk, and there’s a lot of stiff competition. Add to that rough terrain and very difficult navigation and we can’t help but be elated by their move into second.”
Al-Attiyah/Baumel now hold a 3min23.7 lead over Poulter/Von Zitzewitz, who in turn have Abu Issa/Panseri 1min06.3 behind them.
…AND LOOKING FORWARD
Hall added: “Friday’s stage could be another good one for Leeroy and Dirk. Their fourth on Thursday means they’ll be the fourth car to start on Friday morning, with the cars ahead of them, I hope, helping with the navigation.”
Friday’s Stage 4 will cover a mix of terrain types, including some dune crossings, over 337km. The event will finish Doha on Saturday (April 22) after the fifth and final 343km stage. (Thursday’s result below image.)
RESULT – STAGE 3
1 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota) 3hr26min53.00
2 Al-Qassimi/Al-Kendi (Peugeot) +9min14
3 Abu Issa/Panseri (Mini) +9min37
4 Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +10min05
5 Prygonski/Colsoul (Mini) +7min08
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 3
1 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota) 7min28.00
2 Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +3min23
Abu Issa/Panseri (Mini) +4min30
Prygonski/Colsoul (Mini) +4min57
Al-Qassimi/Al Kendi (Peugeot) +10min08