Saturday’s final stage of the Qatar Cross Country Rally, which concluded in Doha after a total race distance of 1 373km, saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’ Leeroy Poulter and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz end the race in third place overall.
This after a strong final stage, which saw the pair open the road, and losing time in the dunes just 10km from the end, narrowly missing out on a second place in the overall standings as a result.
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz showed their class throughout the five-day event, and the race-proved Toyota Hilux never missed a beat. The pair looked set for a second-place finish today, but a small mistake dropped them down to third place – still an excellent achievement, considering it is their first time in the car together, and also Poulter’s first visit to the notoriously tough Qatar Cross Country Rally.
Today’s close stage was a test of 343km, which stage winners Jakub Prygonski and navigator Tom Colsoul (MINI) completed in 3:21:23.00. Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Hilux) were second on the stage, 2:19 behind Prygonski/Colsoul. The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux followed 1:32 later, with Poulter/Von Zitzewitz claiming third place on Stage 5.
“It was a really good day for us,” said Poulter after finishing his first Qatar Cross Country Rally. “Both Dirk and I learnt a lot, and we are pleased with what we’ve achieved. Obviously I’m disappointed not to have held onto second place in the overall standings, but some camel grass in the dunes caught us out. That’s the nature of the game though, and we’ll learn from the experience.”
In the end it was Al Attiyah/Baumel who placed their Toyota Hilux in first place, winning the event by 7:02 from Prygonski/Colsoul. Poulter/Von Zitzewitz finished just 28 seconds behind them, rounding out the podium.
“For us as a team, the Qatar event could hardly have gone any better,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the podium at Doha. “Leeroy and Dirk both learnt a lot, and we progressed well with the development of our Toyota Hilux. What’s more, we have two of our SA-built cars on the podium, which really proves the cars’ toughness and reliability.”
Race winner Al Attiyah described this year’s event as the race with the toughest navigation in the FIA’s World Cup. He also added that the roads are extremely difficult to read, with many hidden dangers.
The Qatar Cross Country Rally was the fourth round of the FIA’s Cross Country World Cup, and featured five stages in total. Al Attiyah/Baumel are the defending cup holders, having won every round they entered during the 2016 World Cup behind the wheel of their Toyota Hilux.
Results – Stage 5:
Prygonski/Colsoul (MINI) 3:21:23.00
Al Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota) +2:19
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +3:51
Abu Issa/Panseri (MINI) +4:13
Al Qassimi/Al Kendi (Peugeot) +5:37
Al Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota) 13:48:09.00
Prygonski/Colsoul (MINI) +7:02
Poulter/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +7:30
Al Qassimi/Al Kendi (Peugeot) +14:32
Abu Issa/Panseri (MINI) +14:44
Source: Toyota SA