Dakar: South African drivers/riders preview

SA QUAD TEAM TAKING ON GRUELLING DAKAR RALLY AGAIN Like in 2004, two South African quad riders, Cornel de Villiers and Johan Steenkamp, will once again take on the gruelling 2007 Euromilhöes Lisboa Dakar Rally that starts on 6 January at Lisbon...

SA QUAD TEAM TAKING ON GRUELLING DAKAR RALLY AGAIN

Like in 2004, two South African quad riders, Cornel de Villiers and Johan Steenkamp, will once again take on the gruelling 2007 Euromilhöes Lisboa Dakar Rally that starts on 6 January at Lisbon in Portugal and finish on 21 January at Dakar in Senegal, Africa.

De Villiers, the four times South African national off-road quad champion and winner of the quad category of the 2004 Dakar Rally, together with his team-mate, Johan Steenkamp, form part of the French MD Rallye Team and are two of 14 quad riders who will take on the almost 8 000 kilometres of this, the 28th edition of the Dakar Rally. The two riders together with mechanic Geoff Osche, left for Portugal on 29 December and survived a big scare on arrival at Madrid's international airport when a car bomb exploded while they were in the aeroplane on their way to Portugal.

De Villiers won the quad category in 2004 on the trusty Bombardier DS650, but this year he and Steenkamp, a veteran racer who unfortunately crashed out of the 2004 Dakar, hope the big and powerful Bombardier Outlander 800 will make their racing lives somewhat easier - especially during the desert stages. The Outlander's four-wheel drive system will definitely work in their advantage - especially when getting stuck in the dunes - while the independent rear suspension will make for a more comfortable ride. They will again experience "camel grass" (big, rock hard humps of grass and sand) and they are confident their Outlanders with its longer wheelbase and independent rear suspension, will take on these obstacles with more ease to see them complete the almost 8 000 kilometres of timed and liaison stages.

Talking from experience, De Villiers is positive that the Outlander's reverse gear (not found on all quads) will also come in handy in the desert when getting stuck going up steep dunes.

De Villiers, the 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2004 off-road quad champion, has been racing and testing the sturdy 800cc V-twin Outlander during the 2005 off- road racing season and is responsible for almost all the modifications, alterations and development on the two Dakar quads. These include two auxiliary 20 litre aluminium fuel tanks covering the rear wheels; the toolbox design; the front bumper and protecting skid plates underneath the quads.

Cornel de Villiers (CDV Racing) also designed the nerf bars (metal bars underneath the rider's feet) which can hold 3 litres of water and 3 litres of oil respectively. They will also carry one spare wheel on the quad.

Both De Villiers and Steenkamp made use of their Dakar knkowledge and are more prepared for the task ahead - they will even remember to set their watches as to not be an hour early on the start line in Marocco!

More South African Competitors De Villiers and Steenkamp are part of a group of 11 South African competitors in the 2007 Dakar. Capetonian Giniel de Villiers (no relation to Cornel) will again pilot his diesel powered Volkswagen Touareg together with his German co-pilot, Dirk von Zitzewitz while former SA Production Vehicle navigator's champion, Ralph Pitchford, will be navigating in a similar vehicle for the American, Mark Miller. The Ladybrand off-road biker now living in the USA, Elmer Symons, is part of the JJE/SSC KTM Racing Team while six more SA bikers will tackle The Dakar: Albert Hintenaus (KTM); Tom Classen (KTM); Christo Aspeling (Honda); Hein Joubert (KTM); Neville Murray (KTM) and Oz Bestel (KTM).

Documentation and scrutineering of the 2007 Dakar Rally take place from 3 to 5 January in Lisbon. The race will start on Saturday, 6 January, when the competitors will have to complete 115km to get to the start of the 117km timed stage. At the end of the stage, competitors will then have to complete another 232km to finish in Portimäo from where they will start the second stage on Sunday.

-credit: et

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Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Giniel de Villiers , Albert Hintenaus