PROFILE: GINIEL DE VILLIERS

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18
  • 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

Sporting career highlights:

  • 1993 First touring car race in South Africa
  • 1994 1st South African Production Car Championship
  • 1995 South African Touring Car Championship
  • 1996 South African Touring Car Championship
  • 1997 1st South African Touring Car Championship
  • 1998 1st South African Touring Car Championship
  • 1999 1st South African Touring Car Championship
  • 2000 1st South African Touring Car Championship South African Off-road Championship
  • 2001 1st South African Off-road Championship, Production Vehicle class
  • 2003 5th Dakar Rally, 1st Moroccan Rally
  • 2004 7th Dakar Rally, South African Off-road Championship, three wins
  • 2005 4th Dakar Rally
  • 2nd Moroccan Rally, 2nd Rallye d’Orient
  • 2006 2nd e Dakar Rally, 2nd Tunisian Rally, 1st Transibérico Rally, 1st Moroccan Rally
  • 2007 11th Dakar Rally, Baja 500 in the USA, 2nd FIA Cross Country World Cup, 1st Moroccan Rally, 3rd UAE Desert Challenge
  • 2008 1st Rallye dos Sertões 15th overall at Nürburgring 24-hour race
  • 2009 1st Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile
  • 2010 7th Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile
  • 2011 2nd Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile

Giniel de Villiers 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), 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 and was a factory driver in the Dakar Rally in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (finishing 5th, 7th and 4th respectively) in South African-built pickups.

De Villiers came second in the 2006 Dakar Rally and went on to win four stages of the 2007 Dakar in an event he was unlucky not to win.  He led by over half an hour from eventual winner Stephane Peterhansel with less than half the rally remaining when his vehicle suffered an under-bonnet fire and he eventually finished 11th.

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

In the 2010 Dakar, again in Argentina-Chile, he and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz finished seventh overall, 5h 10m 19s behind winner and team-mate Carlos Sainz of Spain.  Any chance he had of winning a second Dakar was dashed when his car 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 team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar in the 2011 Dakar Rally and ahead of 2010 winner Carlos Sainz.

“As you would expect from the Dakar, this has been a really tough rally, long and tiring,” said De Villiers after the 2011 event.  “My co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I are very happy to have finished second after our disappointing result last year when we were seventh after losing over two hours with electrical problems on the third stage.  Our strategy throughout the 13 days of racing was to push as hard as we could without taking any unnecessary risks.  We lost a bit of time in the early stages and it’s always difficult to make up.  The Dakar demands great respect and we are proud to have made it on to the podium for the third time in five years.”

De Villiers has been concentrating on his debut season in the South African Rally Championship, competing in the premier Super 2000 class with Ralph Pitchford as his co-driver.

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

“When it comes to desert rallies, you have to overcome new challenges every day, be incredibly flexible and be focused all the time – all of which I love,” says Giniel.

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.”