TERUEL, SPAIN – A spectacular charge from seventh on the road saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz clinch third place on the final stage of the Baja Aragon on Sunday, July 23. The pair had an eventful stage, including a minor roll, but showed their class by finishing just a single second behind MINI’s Orlando Terranova, who came second on the stage. The 184 km-long stage was won by Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel in their Toyota Hilux, who also took overall honours for the second time on the Baja Aragon.
“Leeroy and Dirk really showed what they’re capable of today,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the end of the event in the Spanish town of Teruel. “They pushed really hard, and got within a whisker of pinching second on the stage from Terranova. But in the end, they had to settle for third today, and fifth in the overall standings.”
Baja Aragon was Round 7 of the 11-round FIA Cross-Country World Cup, which Al Attiyah currently leads. For Poulter/Von Zitzewitz, the event offered an unparalleled opportunity to gain international cross country racing experience. Unfortunately, their results were hampered by their starting position, as they had to start from eighth on the road despite finishing fourth in the prologue on Friday, 21 July.
“The conditions in Spain were really rough, but the Toyota Hilux was as bulletproof as always,” said Poulter after completing the event. “The car is simply superb, and the fact that three of the top five finishers are Toyota Hilux crews, bears this out.”
For Team Principal Glyn Hall, Baja Aragon proved a number of things. Firstly, the reliability of the South African-built Toyota Hilux remains legendary. But at the same time, Poulter has also shown that he is more than quick enough to challenge for the win on international races, including the Dakar Rally.
“We were highly encouraged by Leeroy and Dirk’s performance,” concluded Hall. “They were up against crews with local knowledge, but in the end, they proved that they are fast enough to race at any level.”
At the same time, Toyota has every reason to be proud of the fact that three Toyota Hilux crews finished in the Top 5; and also, that Al Attiyah/Baumel remain on course for a second consecutive World Cup victory behind the wheel of the Toyota Hilux.
The next round on the FIA calendar is the Hungarian Baja, which takes place mid-August. But for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, it is back to South Africa to tackle the Harrismith 400, Round 4 of the South African Cross Country Series next weekend.
Poulter and South African navigator Rob Howie currently lead the South African series, but teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy won the double-point scoring Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race last month, putting some pressure on Poulter/Howie.
“We’re certainly looking forward to this weekend’s race,” said Hall. “Leeroy and Giniel are taking the fight to each other at the moment, and it is certainly spectacular to see them in action.”
The Harrismith 400 kicks off with a prologue to determine start positions on Friday, 28 July. The main event starts at 8am on Saturday, 29 July, and entry to all areas is free for spectators.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 4 of 4:
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