DOHA - The first full stage of racing in this year's 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. The pair also suffered two punctures on the 334km-long stage, leaving them with no spare tyre for the last 200km of the stage.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz found themselves in third place after yesterday's opening stage of the 2017 edition of the event, just 9.7 seconds behind early leaders Nasser Al Attiyah and navigator Matthieu Baumel, in an identical Toyota Hilux. They drew number two on the road, however, which meant they started the day behind Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora (H3 Evo VII), who drew the first starting position.
"With only a two-minute dust gap, we caught up with Zapletal just 17 km into the stage," said Poulter after arriving in the bivouac at Doha. "We managed to pass him, but then we were opening the road."
The pair suffered their first puncture at the 65km mark, at which point MINI driver Yazeed Al Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk passed them. A second puncture followed at the 130km mark, forcing the Toyota crew to adopt a more cautious approach for the final 200km of the stage.
"Leeroy and Dirk did an excellent job out there today. The conditions were tough, especially with them having to open the road. But they pushed on, and posted excellent times despite the punctures," said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. "The Toyota Hilux also ran like clockwork, and we are very pleased with today's result."
The stage was won by MINI's Jakub Prygonski and navigator Tom Colsoul, with Al Rajhi/Gottschalk finishing second, some 1:32 back. The Dutch Toyota Hilux crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar posted the third-fastest time, 3:57 behind Prygonksi/Colsoul.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz' time today puts them in fourth place in the overall standings, 5:38.80 behind race leader Prygonksi. Favourites and early leaders Al Attiyah/Baumel suffered a broken gear lever on today's stage, as well as power steering problems. This dropped them down to 6th in the overall standings, 12:20.10 behind the leaders.
"Tomorrow's stage is another long one. At 353km, it certainly won't be easy, but at least Leeroy and Dirk will be starting fourth on the road, which will help a lot," concluded Hall.
The 2017 Qatar Cross Country Rally features five stages, and will finish in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
RESULTS - STAGE 2:
1. Prygonski/Colsoul (MINI) 3:19:33.0
2. Al Rajhi/Gottschalk (MINI) +1:32
3. Van Loon/Rosegaar (Toyota) +3:57
4. Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +5:44
5. Abu Issa/Panseri (MINI) +7:08
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 2:
1. Prygonski/Colsoul (MINI) 3:24:15.0
2. Al Rajhi/Gottschalk (MINI) +1:25
3. Van Loon/Rosegaar (Toyota) +3:59
4. Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +5:38
5. Abu Issa/Panseri (MINI) +7:13
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Published by: Reche van Niekerk
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