10th January 2012, Stage 9, Antofagasta–Iquique Headlong into the finish, full throttle down the Cerro Dragón: the arrival at the finish of the ninth stage of the Dakar in Iquique is a legend in its own right.
The competitors in the car category plunge into what is probably the most spectacular finish in motorsport at up to 220 kilometres per hour – although the cars are usually cars flat out at just 190 kilometres per hour on level ground.
The extra speed provided by gravity gives the drivers and co-drivers an additional adrenalin boost. Braking is forbidden here, otherwise the car can quickly career out of control. The drop in altitude of around 700 metres to the Pacific is covered in a matter of seconds. Between Antofagasta and Iquique, however, the descent to the bivouac is merely the icing on the cake.
The route features an ever-changing combination of dust, dunes, trial sections and gravel, while the high proportion of off-road stretches will have the navigators’ heads in a spin.
Dirk von Zitzewitz: “As you come over the crest of the final dune you are greeted by a view of the Pacific and the bivouac. From that point on you simply attack the slope – a nice reward at the end of an extremely challenging stage. Having said that, it is a potentially hazardous reward – you can easily roll the car on the transverse ruts. If that happens, there is no stopping until you reach the bottom of the dune.
It is a long way before you reach the final descent, however: it is easy to lose your way on the longest special stage of the rally. You are literally on tenterhooks all day, as you know that 30 or 40 kilometres of the most challenging dunes await you at the end of the stage.”
Special stage: 556 kilometres
Background: Ambitious “made in South Africa” project One of the biggest names in rallying is making its premiere at the Dakar: the Hallspeed team, representing Imperial Toyota, is running its own cars for the first time at the toughest rally in the world. Team owner Glyn Hall’s crew had previously made its name on the endurance rally scene by designing and building Dakar vehicles for the Overdrive team, as well as supporting customers in the South African Offroad Championship for a number of years.
Hallspeed has also been developing racing cars for Toyota Motorsport in South Africa since 2010. In 2012, Hallspeed is taking the next step by entering the Dakar: 100 percent “made in South Africa”, the team lines up at the Dakar with two Imperial Toyota Hilux vehicles armed with V8 engines, while Overdrive is also running two further Hiluxes.
The South African chain of Toyota dealerships, Imperial, has enrolled a truly high-class crew for the 2012 Dakar: 2009 Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz – the only non-South African in the team – are behind the wheel of the red and white Hilux with start number “301”, while Duncan Vos and his co-driver Rob Howie are in car number “313”.
Imperial Toyota have also left nothing to chance when it comes to the technology and have worked meticulously to prepare for the challenge than 100 days before the first cars were shipped.