Action star Giniel de Villiers is internationally recognized for his Dakar Rally achievements. This small-town Western Cape motorsport professional put South Africa firmly on the international off-road racing map after he snatched victory in the 2009 Dakar Rally after 9,000km of nail-biting racing.
Having returned from the deserts and dunes in Argentina, Chile and Peru in January with second place overall in the 2013 edition for his fifth podium performance in this demanding race, the Imperial Toyota driver now turns his focus to the TOTAL Rally taking place on 8 – 9 March 2013.
Scheduled to be his first full season of competition in the South African National Rally Championship, De Villiers is looking to translate his need for speed into rally wins and Championship points in 2013. In this year’s Dakar Rally he contested a powerful and state-of-the-art Toyota Hilux but in the South African rally series he will pilot a Toyota Auris S2000 weapon.
The 2013 South African Rally Championship is an eight-event series drawing over 30 of the country’s best rally drivers and co-drivers to fight for victory on the fastest and most challenging gravel and asphalt special stages this country has to offer. The traditional season-opener, the TOTAL Rally is regarded as one of the most challenging events on the calendar for its slippery gravel surfaces that demand absolute focus and commitment from drivers and co-drivers to set the fastest stage times.
Born in the town of Robertson, Western Cape on 25 March 1972, Giniel de Villiers has been involved with racing and motorsport from a young age. Ever since he took to go-kart racing at the age of four, to his most recent second place overall result at the world’s most grueling motorsport event, he has showcased his competitive nature and desire to be the fastest.
His go-kart racing soon developed into circuit racing in 1989, where he went from racing at the back of the field in his first club-level race to dominating the South African Touring Car Championship for four years.
Nissan Motorsport South Africa, then headed up by Glyn Hall, signed the talented car racer in the mid-1990s to his team, and together they formed the most successful motorsport partnership in South Africa that exists even today. After winning four South African Touring Car Championship titles from 1997 to 2000 with Nissan Motorsport, the team turned its attention to the South African Off-Road Racing Championship series and took Giniel with them. Giniel won the Off-Road Championship in his first season, and his ambition to be the best in the world took root…
The 2003 Dakar Rally saw Nissan Motorsport, and Glyn Hall, with his racing driver entered for the first time. In that year, Giniel raced his South African-built Nissan Hardbody to finish a superb fifth overall. In 2004 he claimed seventh overall, and in 2005 the Stellenbosch resident powered to fourth overall in what was to be Nissan Motorsport’s last official factory participation in the Dakar Rally.
He moved to the then-new Volkswagen Motorsport squad to contest the 2006 Dakar Rally, and thrilled his new team by storming to second overall. It was in the next year’s edition, 2007, that Giniel found himself leading the Dakar Rally with a commanding lead for the first time, and he was set for victory. However, his Volkswagen Race Touareg suffered engine problems that forced him to slow his pace and dropped him from the lead to finish a frustrating 11th overall.
The 2008 edition of the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to political instability in Northern Africa, and the race organisers moved the entire event to South America for 2009 and onwards. With terrain, stages and obstacles as challenging as in the African years of this iconic race, competitors had much to do to keep a determined Giniel in their sights as he raced for the horizon. In that year, he claimed the win that eluded him in 2007 and he was deservedly crowned the Dakar Rally Champion.
While defending his Dakar Rally title in 2010, his car’s engine once more thwarted his efforts and he was forced settle for seventh overall. In 2011, his final year with Volkswagen Motorsport as they exited the sport to focus on special stage rallying, Giniel finished a close second overall to team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah.
For the last two editions of the Dakar Rally, Giniel once more joined forces with Glyn Hall at Hallspeed and Toyota Motorsport in South Africa. He contested the Dakar Rally 2012 and 2013 in a South African-built Toyota Hilux, and finished third in 2012 and second overall his year.
After setting tongues wagging with his sideways skills in special stage rallying on selected rounds of the 2012 South African Rally Championship, Giniel is ready to once more do battle against his rivals in the most hotly contested Class S2000 national rally championship class in the world. He is contesting this opening round of 2013 with his familiar Toyota Auris S2000, while an all-new Toyota Yaris S2000 is being hurriedly prepared for him for the next round in April. However, as a major scoop for the TOTAL Rally his two factory Toyota Motorsport team-mates Johnny Gemmell and Leeroy Poulter will be debuting the new Yaris S2000.
His first special stage rally outing in 2012 was at the muddy and flooded forest stages of the Volkswagen Rally outside Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. In the most treacherous conditions experienced in decades for rally competitors, Giniel maintained his composure to finish 13th overall. He followed this up with fifth place at the Rally South Africa in and around Durban, KwaZulu-Natal to finish fifth overall. In the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally in Caledon, Western Cape, he and his Toyota Auris S2000 raced to 7th overall, and then to a fantastic third overall at the Polokwane Rally in his career-best performance to date. Sadly, mechanical mayhem saw him round out his season of rallying with 18th overall at the Garden Route Rally.
The humble South African was also named as the Bridgestone SA/South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Sportsman of the Year 2012.
Starting the 2013 South African Rally Championship off with the TOTAL Rally on 8 – 9 March, Giniel aims to pick up where he left off in 2012 and to fight for overall victory on the slippery Scottburgh gravel roads. Will you be there?