Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz Move Up to 3rd Overall
A fighting sixth place under disadvantageous conditions on Sunday’s seventh special stage – a 533-kilometre mega loop from Salta to Salta at an average altitude of 3 500 metres – saw South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) move into third place overall after starting the day fourth.
It was a frustrating stage for the 2009 champions, with the high altitude sapping the normally-aspirated, petrol-engined Toyota of power. The effect was compounded by the fact that it was a very fast stage run at full throttle for much of the time. Wild llamas also proved to be an unusual hazard and De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were fortunate to narrowly miss one.
The racing section was won by Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk of Germany (SMG Buggy), who finished 4m 45s ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz. Third were defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a MINI (+7m 26s) followed by Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin in another MINI (+8m 56s).
Roma and Perin remain in the overall lead with an advantage of 31m 53s over Peterhansel and Cottret (MINI). De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 46m 23s in arrears and 13m 50s ahead of fourth-placed Orlando Terranova of Argentina and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza (MINI), who were given a 15-minute retrospective penalty on the rest day in Salta for unsportsmanlike behaviour. Fifth are Al-Attiyah Qatar and co-driver Cruz in a MINI (+1h 18min 24s) ahead of Sainz and Gottschalk in the SMG Buggy (+1h 50m 42s). Both Al-Attiyah and Sainz are carrying a one-hour penalty for missing a way point.
It was another long and disappointing day in the dust for De Villiers’ South African team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux. After starting in 26th position on the road and 29th in the general classification, Dakar rookie Poulter and Howie came in 68th on the stage, 3h 13m 48s behind the leaders and have dropped to 30th overall.
“We were doing well until we had a steering concern, which led to us being stuck on the side of the road trying to solve the problem and fix it”, said Poulter, who is experiencing his first Dakar. “We managed to succeed just before the T4 support truck arrived and lost almost three hours. The rest of the stage went relatively well. We are disappointed to have fallen further back, but we’ll continue to do our best and see if we can make up some time tomorrow.”
De Villiers: “It was a fast, flat-out stage at high altitude that suited our diesel rivals better than it did us. It was frustrating as we just didn’t have the power to fairly contest the stage. We were also slowed by a puncture within the first 100 kilometres. We managed to limit the damage to our closest rivals (Nani Roma and Stephane Peterhansel) and have been helped by Orlando’s (Terranova) penalty. We look ahead to tomorrow and our first special stage in Chile. We are ready.”
Monday sees the competitors crossing the Andes Mountains into Chile via the Paso de Jama at an altitude of nearly 4 900 metres. A 522-kilometre liaison section from Salta in Argentina will take them to the first of the six stages in Chile, a 302-kilometre racing section to Calama. It is described in the route handbook as characterised by fast, narrow sections and few overtaking opportunities.
The stage will start at 05:15 (10:15 SA time) and the first car is due at the bivouac in Calama at 14:50 (19:50).
Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Dakar Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota, Imperial Toyota Group, Duxbury Netgear, Innovation Group, Toyota Financial Services, SAA Cargo, Blue Sky, Bosch, Castrol, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, 4×4 Mega World, Hallspeed, Mastercraft, NGK, Oakley, SKF, Spanjaard, Sparco and TFM.