Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz of the Toyota Imperial SA Dakar team showed once again on Wednesday’s 231-kilometre stage 10 between Iquique and Antofagasta in Chile that they were the only petrol-engined 4×4 to take the fight to the turbo-diesel Minis in this year’s Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile.
The 2009 champions overcame another fast and dusty stage with fesh–fesh and sand dunes to finish fourth on the day and regain fourth place overall on their own with three of the 13 special stages remaining before the finish in Valparaiso in Chile on Saturday.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (Mini) won the stage by 3m 50s from team-mates and defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France (Mini). Third were Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (Mini), 13m 45s in arrears and 14m 30s ahead of De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
In the overall standings, Roma and Perin still lead, but second-placed Peterhansel and Cottret have reduced the gap from 12m 10s to 2m 15s. Al-Attiyah and Cruz are third 46m 01s in arrears and 26m 15s ahead of De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
Argentine Orlando Terranova and Paulo Piuza of Portugal (Mini), who had been third overall on Tuesday ahead of De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz, dropped 5m 33s to the South African Imperial Toyota Hilux and are now fifth overall, 20 seconds behind.
Toyota Hilux 4x4s with South African pedigrees fill the top three places in the four-wheel drive petrol class: De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz are first ahead of two Belgian Team Overdrive entries, Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor of Poland who are second in class and seventh overall, and Adam Malysz and Rafal Marton of Poland who are third in class and 9th overall.
De Villiers: “We got stuck on a sand dune and stalled the engine. It was a stupid mistake and cost us around six minutes,” said De Villiers. “Amazingly, no-one passed us. We knew we had made up good time on Terranova, who was ahead of us in the general classification yesterday. We were also slowed by a flat tyre – it came off the rim – and lost some more time when I battled to get up a sand dune. We finally managed after deflating the tyres. We completed the last 50 kilometres at half throttle with low fuel pressure. All in all, we’re happy with the result and the fact that we live to fight another day.”
Toyota Imperial Hilux team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie were again delayed for several hours after breaking a front upright 130 kilometres from the end of the stage. They were having a great run and were lying 19th on the stage after starting 33rd. They had to wait for the T4 assistance truck, which was only expected to reach them at 22:00 (03:00 SA time).
Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, the South African privateers competing in their first Dakar in the same Hilux in which De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz finished second in last year’s Dakar, delivered another steady performance to finish 21st on the stage and are 22nd overall.
Toyota Land Cruisers occupy the first two places in the T2.1 class. Jun Mitsuashi of Japan and Alain Guehennic of France lead and are 21st overall. Team-mates Nicolas Gibon of France and Akira Miura of Japan are second and 26th overall.
Teruhito Sugawara, competing in his 33rd Dakar at the age of 72 (he is the oldest competitor) and Hiroyuki Sugiura (Hino) are 14th overall in the truck category and 14th in class T4.2.
The rally continues to make its way south down the west coast of Chile with Thursday’s 11th stage from Antofagasta to El Salvador dominated by a tough crossing of the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world. After mine tracks and many river crossings in the first part of the 605-kilometre special stage, it will be into the heart of the dunes of Copiapo. Competitors will spend more than six and a half hours in their cars.
The cars will start the opening 144-kilometre liaison section at 07:01 (12:01 SA time) and the first car is due at the finish off the special stage at the bivouac at 16:31 (21:31).
Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Dakar Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota, Imperial Toyota Group, Duxbury Netgear, Innovation Group, Toyota Financial Services, SAA Cargo, Blue Sky, Bosch, Castrol, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, 4×4 Mega World, Hallspeed, Mastercraft, NGK, Oakley, SKF, Spanjaard, Sparco and TFM.