Giniel de Villiers showed why he is one of the world’s top endurance off road drivers in Tuesday’s special stage four of the Dakar Rally between Nazca and Arequipa in Peru.
2012 Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret (Mini) lead 2011 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (Buggy) by five minutes with De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz 33 minutes in arrears.
The 2009 Dakar champions hit back on the 288-kilometre stage, which featured lots of sand, dunes and fesh fesh, in a trouble-free run while the hopes of two other potential race winners were dashed. They arrived at the Arequipa bivouac after more than six hours on the road at 8 pm Peru time (3 am SA time) four minutes behind stage winners Al-Attiyah and Cruz.
“We had a good day today,” said De Villiers. “It was a very long stage, over three and a half hours of hard driving and navigating, the first really hard stage of the rally so far. The Hilux ran well.”
Glyn Hall: “We’re very happy with Giniel’s and Dirk’s performance today. We have no problems with the car and it’s all looking good.”
After four stages several potential race winners have dropped out or suffered big time losses. Krzysztof Holowczyc of Poland and Portuguese co-driver Filipe Palmeiro (Mini) retired on special stage three after Holowczyc hurt his back going over a dune.
Argentine duo Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue started Monday’s stage in third place overall in their South African-built Toyota Hilux, but by the end of the day they had lost over three hours after severely damaging their suspension going over a big jump. Further problems on stage four saw them finish 67thand they are now 27th overall and nearly four hours behind.
2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz of Spain and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk (Buggy) have dropped from first place after stage two to 24th and have a crippling 3 hr 18 min deficit after electrical problems on Monday and a fuel leak on Tuesday.
Americans Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch fell into a hole in the sand dunes on stage four and put their Hummer on its back. They lost over five hours and are now 43rd and nearly six hours behind the leaders.
Wednesday’s stage five starts with a 337-kilometre liaison section and a crossing of the Andes Mountains into Chile. A 172-kilometre special stage will see a big change in terrain with stony tracks, river crossings and a series of valleys to contend with. Navigators will be busy.