PROFILE: GINIEL DE VILLIERS







Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: August 3, 2012
Categories: Toyota, Toyota Racing

  • Date/place of birth 25 March 1972, Barrydale,South Africa
  • Domicile:Stellenbosch,South Africa
  • Marital status: Married to Jeanne-Marie, a wine maker
  • Current job: Rally raid driver
  • Hobbies: Golf, mountain bike riding, kite surfing

Giniel De Villiers

Sporting career highlights:

  • 1993 First touring car race inSouth Africa
  • 1994 1st South African Production Car Championship (Nissan)
  • 1995 South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan)
  • 1996 South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan)

  • 1997 1st South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan)
  • 1998 1st South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan)
  • 1999 1st South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan)
  • 2000 1st South African Touring Car Championship (Nissan),
  • South African Off-road Championship (Nissan)
  • 2001 1st South African Off-road Championship, Production Vehicle class (Nissan)
  • 2003 5th DakarRally, 1st Moroccan Rally (Nissan)
  • 2004 7th DakarRally, South African Off-road Championship, three wins (Nissan)
  • 2005 4th DakarRally (Nissan)
  • 2nd Moroccan Rally, 2nd Rallye d’Orient (Volkswagen)
  • 2006 2nd Dakar Rally, 2nd Tunisian Rally, 1st Transibérico Rally, 1st Moroccan Rally (Volkswagen)
  • 2007 11th DakarRally, Baja 500 in theUSA, 2nd FIA Cross Country World Cup, 1st Moroccan Rally, 3rdUAEDesertChallenge (Volkswagen)
  • 2008 1st Rallye dos Sertões (Volkswagen)
  • 15th overall at Nürburgring 24-hour race (Volkswagen)
  • 2009 1st Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile (Volkswagen)
  • 2010 7th Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile (Volkswagen)
  • 2011 2nd Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile (Volkswagen)

Giniel de Villiers, who was a successful touring car driver and an off road champion before taking up international cross-country rallies. After winning four touring car titles in his native South Africa (1997 to 2000 in a factory Nissan Primera), he turned his attentions to a completely new challenge in the 2001 season, trading in the even surfaces of the race track for the rough tracks of cross-country rally driving.  He won the 2001 South African national off road championship in a factory Nissan Hardbody pickup and was a factory Nissan driver in the Dakar Rally in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (finishing 5th, 7th and 4th respectively) in Nissan Hardbody pickups designed and built in South Africa by Nissan Motorsport under the direction of Glyn Hall.

De Villiers came second in the 2006 Dakar Rally in a factory Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 and went on to win four stages of the 2007 Dakar for VW in an event he was unlucky not to win.  He led by over half an hour from eventual winner Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi Pajero Evo) with less than half the rally remaining when his VW suffered an under-bonnet fire and he eventually finished 11th.

In winning the 2009 Dakar Rally by 8m 59s from team-mates Mark Miller ofAmericaand Ralph Pitchford ofSouth Africa, he became the first South African to win the world’s longest and toughest motor sport event and gave VW its first victory with the diesel-engined Race Touareg.  He was voted ‘Motor Sportsman of the Year’ by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists for this achievement.

In the 2010Dakar, again in Argentina-Chile, he and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz finished seventh overall in a Race Touareg, 5h 10m 19s behind winner and team-mate Carlos Sainz ofSpain.  Any chance he had of winning a secondDakarwas dashed when his Volkswagen suffered electrical problems in stage three on January 4 and he had to wait for his assistance truck, losing over two hours.  For the rest of the rally he played a support role to his team-mates.

He finished second to Volkswagen team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar in the 2011 Dakar Rally and ahead of 2010 winner Carlos Sainz in a third Race Touareg.  VW later announced that the 2011 Dakar Rally would be the company’s last.

No longer contracted to VW Motorsport in Germany, he concentrated on his debut season in the South African Rally Championship in a factory Volkswagen Polo, competing in the premier Super 2000 class with Ralph Pitchford as his co-driver.  They finished the season in 13th place with a best result of fifth place.

De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz finished third overall in the 2012 Dakar Rally in an Imperial Toyota Hilux designed and built in South Africa by Toyota Motorsport under the direction of Glyn Hall.  It was the first time a Toyota Hilux had competed in the Dakar Rally.

“As you would expect from the Dakar, this has been a really tough rally, long and tiring,” said De Villiers after the 2012 event.  “Dirk and I are very happy to have finished third in our first attempt with the new Imperial Toyota Hilux.  Our strategy throughout the event was to push as hard as we could without taking any unnecessary risks.  The South African designed and built Hilux performed faultlessly.  The Dakar demands great respect and we are proud to have made it on to the podium for the fourth time in six years.”

In July De Villiers and Ralph Pitchford teamed up again in the fourth round of the SA Rally Championship in an Imperial Toyota Auris alongside Toyota Motorsport team-mates Johnny Gemmell/Carolyn Swan and Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee in two Castrol Toyota Auris four-wheel drive rally cars.  They finished 13th overall and will contest the remainder of the championship.

He has been an international Red Bull athlete for the past seven years.

He is also very much on the go in his private life: “I’m an outdoorsy kind of guy, and like to spend my spare time kite surfing, playing golf or mountain biking in the Jonkershoek mountains near my home in Stellenbosch.”