- Drivers from the Netherlands, Russia, Australia and Poland in SA designed Hiluxes
- First appearance of Belgian-built Toyotas under South African licence
Overdrive Racing from Belgium will field no less than four South African designed Toyota Hiluxes for drivers from the Netherlands, Russia, Australia and Poland in the OiLibya Rally of Morocco which started in Erfoud, Morocco, today and will finish in Zagora on Saturday, October 20th.
The Moroccan event is one of the most popular long distance cross-country rallies on the international calendar. Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn, Russian Leonid Ogorodnikov, Australian Geoff Olholm and Poland’s Szymon Ruta will drive the four Belgian-run cars, with Belgian Eddy Chevallier, Russian Anton Nikolaev, Aussie Jon Aston and Frenchman Laurent Lichtleuchter set for their respective co-driving duties.
Olholm and Van Merksteijn will drive two Toyotas that have been built at Overdrive’s workshops at Villers-le-Bouillet, near Huy, in Belgium under licence from Toyota Motorsport South Africa.
The Ogorodnikov and Ruta cars were built by Toyota Motorsport in association with Hallspeed in South Africa and are being run on the Moroccan event by Overdrive Racing, which has received additional support from new sponsors Mistral, Donaldson Filtration, Essers Transport and Toyota Belgium. Ruta’s car also carries support from Orlen, the Polish oil company.
“It has been a busy few weeks preparing for the race and I am proud to debut the two new cars,” said Overdrive team principal Jean-Marc Fortin. “The team has really put in a lot of effort to get things ready and we have had a lot of support from Toyota Motorsport South Africa with the new project.
“For the race, I think it will be interesting to see how the performance of the Hilux compares to our competitors and it will give the entire team one last chance for a thorough test session before the Dakar.”
Van Merksteijn and Chevallier made an impressive first appearance for the Overdrive Racing team at the Italian Baja in March and the Moroccan event forms the second part of their preparations for the Dakar, where the emphasis will be placed on gaining as much experience as possible of sand dunes and softer terrain.
Morocco will mark the first event of the season for Ogorodnikov and his new co-driver and a Toyota Hilux debut for Olholm. The Australian was
leading the recent Australian Safari Rally and won most of the special stages before damaging the rear suspension. He is planning to compete in the 2013 Dakar and will use the event as a vital test session.
Ruta, meanwhile, continues with his development and preparations for the Dakar with his Orlen-backed Hilux and his new French co-driver. The Pole’s most recent outing ended with a fine fourth position in Baja Poland.
Competitors in the motorcycle, car and truck categories will tackle six days of action through some of the most demanding desert terrain in southern Morocco. Action gets underway with a 271km special around Erfoud on Monday and the traditional desert outpost will also host the event for a second 315km stage through the Erg Chebbi on Tuesday.
The route heads from Erfoud to Zagora via a 291km special stage on Wednesday and the remainder of the event is centred around Zagora. A 250km stage through the Chegaga is on the agenda for Thursday, while the penultimate special on Friday runs from Oued Draa to the Iriki Lake and offers 246 competitive kilometres.
A 171km stage across the Jebel Rhart brings the competition to a conclusion before the ceremonial finish in Zagora on Saturday.