29 kilometres to third place: Toyota on brink of Dakar coup
Pisco/Peru They initially set their sights on tenth place, hardly daring to dream of achieving their ultimate goal of fifth place, but an outstanding performance and hard work means they are now looking at finishing third: Giniel de Villiers (Stellenbosch/South Africa), Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof/Germany) and their Imperial Toyota team are on the brink of a huge coup at the Dakar.
Driving their privately developed and prepared Hilux pick-up, 2009 Dakar winners de Villiers/von Zitzewitz clocked the second fastest time of the day on the penultimate stage of the Rally Dakar between Nasca and Pisco – their best individual stage result of the rally so far. On another exhausting stage, on which almost all the top drivers got stuck at least once, the duo defended third place and now have almost an hour advantage over opposition who were regarded as being much stronger at the start of the rally.
The Hilux pair was the first to reach the final section of the special stage and also the first car to arrive at the finish. Despite this, they still had to concede defeat to one rival. Stéphane Peterhansel won today’s stage to ensure that the only works team in the car category at the toughest rally in the world, the X-raid Mini team, leads the overall standings with Peterhansel followed by Joan “Nani” Roma ahead of he positive surprise of the Dakar – “Ginny” and “Schnietz” – in third place overall.
The South African/German team is well ahead of Peterhansel’s Mini team-mates, who also started the race as hot favourites, as well as Hummer driver Robby Gordon, who lined up with an overall package well capable of victory in 2012.
29 relatively easy kilometres of special stage now lie between de Villiers/von Zitzewitz and third place when they arrive at the podium in the Peruvian capital of Lima – a short hop in marathon rallying. Concentration is still required ahead of the short final section, however. Nobody wants to undo all the hard work of the last two weeks and put one of the best sporting performances by driver, co-driver and team at risk due to carelessness.
Nine kilometres of small but nasty dunes at the start, then a further 21 towards the end of a selective Dakar stage: day thirteen’s route took the competitors from Nazca to Pisco in the direction of Bahía de Caballas on the Pacific coast, through the Gran Tablazo de Ica and between the Cerro Blanco and the Morro Quemado. The 275 – kilometre special stage featured a diverse range of terrain: as well as dune crossings and sandy passages along the beach, the drivers were also faced with harder loamy ground and gravel sections on Saturday.
Together with yesterday’s exhausting stage, this section of the rally formed the most demanding phase of the second week of the Dakar.
Dakar Rally provisional overall classification after leg 13
1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 35h 19m 04s
2. Joan „Nani“ Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 35h 39m 04s
3. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 36h 25m 44s
4. Robby Gordon/Johnny Campbell (USA/USA)*, Hummer, 37h 03m 08s
5. Leonid Novitzkiy/Andreas Schulz (RUS/D), Mini, 37h 19m 05s
6. Lucio Alvarez/Bernardo Graue (RA/RA), Toyota Overdrive, 39h 11m 10s
7. Bernhard Ten Brinke/Matthieu Baumel (NL/F), Mitsubishi, 39h 33m 28s
8. Ricardo Leal dos Santos/Paulo Fiuza (P/P) Mini, 40h 10m 09s
* Disqualified, team has appealed, and will continue to compete in the rally.
Preview: Coming up next at the Dakar
15th January 2012, Stage 14, Pisco–Lima The final stage of the Rally Dakar – many will have been desperate for this moment to arrive. The amateurs, in particular, can breathe a sigh of relief: the final, smaller dunes on the 29-kilometre timed section are there to be enjoyed – racing takes a back seat.
The Dakar arrives at the Peruvian capital of Lima for the first time, where a triumphant reception awaits the Dakar heroes.
Dirk von Zitzewitz: “The roadbook may still contain details of a few dunes on this stage, but they are easier to cross. The feeling of relief at reaching the finish will grow with every kilometre, and you’ll be able to feel the release of the pressure of the past few weeks. This stage is an impressive way to end what is probably the toughest Dakar ever. Everyone who reaches the finish is a true Dakar hero.”
Connection: 134 kilometres – Special stage: 29 kilometres – Connection: 120 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 codriver 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 – even though the Dakar project was only given the final go-ahead less than 100 days before the first cars were shipped.
“Today’s dune crossings were once again extremely demanding, and we did not manage all of them without any problems. We got stuck once, but otherwise we had a good run. We are obviously very pleased to have strengthened our third place. However, it will only be safe once we have driven over the ramp in Lima tomorrow. I am really looking forward to that, as the fans in Peru are absolutely fantastic. They have created a great atmosphere and are extremely euphoric. I like that a lot.” – Giniel de Villiers after stage 13 of the Dakar Rally
“We got stuck again today, but this time it required me to get physical. I had to give Giniel a push to get him over the crest of the dune and then chase him for about 300 metres. We made up a lot of the time we lost there when there was some confusion with the navigation at a waypoint. I was the first to find the way out of there, which enabled us to be the first car into the finish. Both yesterday’s and today’s stages were great: they were just as Dakar stages should be. That is what makes the Dakar so special.” – Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 13 of the Dakar Rally