DAKAR 2015, STAGE 3: TOUGH DAY FOR POULTER, AS DE VILLIERS CEMENTS SECOND POSITION OVERALL
CHILECITO – Stage 3 of Dakar 2015 took place in some of the most spectacular scenery on the face of the planet, but Giniel de Villiers and German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#303) clearly didn’t take a moment to enjoy their surroundings. The pair posted the second-fastest time on the stage, losing out on a stage win by just 1:54 after 284 km of cross-country racing. In the end it was MINI driver Orlando Terranova that pipped them to the post, but De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz remain in second place overall, 5:18 behind Nasser Al-Attiyah (MINI).
“We had another good day in the Toyota Imperial Hilux today,” said De Villiers from the bivouac near Chilecito, 232 km north of the end of Stage 3. “The vehicle ran perfectly and we were very fast. Unfortunately we had a puncture near the end of the stage, costing us some time. Still it looked like we won the stage, but then Terranova came through and he was just a little bit faster.”
The stage consisted of varied terrain, and started near the arid town of San Juan, at the base of the Andes. With towering red rock spires in the background, the cars made their way across vast open sections on shale-covered tracks and river beds, before finishing under the watchful peaks of the Andes on the way to Chilecito.
For Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux, Stage 3 will be one to remember – but not for the reasons they had hoped. After a great outing on Stage 2, Poulter/Howie hit trouble early on Stage 3, when they made hard contact with a ditch on the route, breaking a lower control arm in the process. They had a spare part on board, but it took 45 minutes to install.
According to Team Principal Glyn Hall, Poulter will need to dig deep in order to make the most of the situation: “Leeroy has matured a lot as a driver, as we’ve already seen on the first two stages. Today’s incident was unfortunate, but I believe Leeroy has the potential to win stages, and it will be interesting to see how high they can climb back up the leaderboard.”
Stage 3 was the last Argentine stage for the time being, as the crews cross the Andes into Chile for Stage 4. Most of the day will be spent on a monster liaison of 594 km, followed by a stage of 315 km. Stage 3 starts at 3000 m above sea level and ends with the famous descent down a massive dune into the mining town of Copiapo. It also sees the first big dunes of Dakar 2015, and will certainly test every crew to the limit.