Driving Poulter’s Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux bakkie in what was supposed to be a development run for the 2018 Dakar Rally, testing some new parts and giving Poulter a taste of racing with somebody other than long-time partner Rob Howie in the hot seat (Giniel de Villiers wasn’t available for Qatar, so Von Zitzewitz, who crews for De Villiers, did a seat swop with Howie) they opened the road on the fifth and final stage of the 1373km rally.
And if they hadn’t lost time in the dunes, just 10km from the end of the 343km Stage 5, they’d have clinched second overall; this in Poulter’s first attempt at the Qatar Rally and his first outing with Von Zitzewitz.
As it was, Mini crew Jakub Prygonski and Tom Colsoul finished the stage in 3h21m23s, with former Dakar Rally winner, local hero Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in another South African-built Hilux second, 2m19 adrift and Poulter third, a further 1m32 down.
But when the final times were tallied, it was Al Attiyah and Baumel who took first overall, 7m09 ahead of Prygonski and Colsoul – with Poulter and Von Zitzewitz a heart-breaking seven seconds behind in third overall.
'The nature of the game'
“Obviously I'm disappointed not to have held onto second place in the overall standings,” said Poulter afterwards, “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."
Race winner Al Attiyah described this year's Qatar Rally, Round 4 of the Cross Country World Cup, as the race with the toughest navigation in the series. The roads were extremely difficult to read, he said, with many hidden dangers.