The Toyota Imperial South Africa Team’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz made a dream start to the second week of the Dakar Rally when they led the first half of the two-part 593-kilometre special stage nine between San Miguel de Tucuman and Cordoba in Argentina on Monday.
After losing around 10 minutes they reached the end of the longest special stage of the 8 500-kilometre rally in fifth place, 9 min 39 sec down on winners Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin in a Mini. Third were overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in another Mini.
In the general classification Toyota Imperial South Africa Team’s De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz have now moved up to second overall, 49 minutes behind Peterhansel and Cottret and 6 min 32 sec ahead of the Mini of Russians Leonid Novitskiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov.
It was a nightmare day for Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz, who had started the day in second place overall. Technical problems caused them to stop their Buggy several times during the day and Al-Attiyah’s dream of a second Dakar victory is over.
Four other Toyota Hilux bakkies built by Kyalami-based Hallspeed for Toyota Motorsport are placed in the top 20 overall. Geoffrey Olholm of Australia and Jonathan Aston of Great Britain are 12th, Adam Malysz and Rafal Martin of Poland are 14th, Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue of Argentina are 16th and Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses of Venezuela are 17th.
De Villiers: “Phew, what a day! It had started super for us, but again proved the old adage: the Dakar is unpredictable. It was a challenging stage which pushed our equipment to the limit, but our South African-built Toyota Hilux handled it well and I am very satisfied. I am naturally happy that we are now in second place. Even on bad days you can be strong.”
Von Zitzewitz: “At the beginning everything went well for us. Then on the second section a defective brake disc forced us to slow. Giniel kept a cool head and had the situation under control. The later tyre damage was simply bad luck. We gave it our all through to the finish in order to end the day on a positive note.Now we can look ahead, and are looking forward to the stage to La Rioja.“
Glyn Hall, team principal: “A great day. Giniel led the special stage for 500 kilometres before a front brake disc exploded. This, together with a puncture, lost the team 10 minutes at least. The Hilux performed brilliantly in the slippery conditions. It was a shame not to have won the stage and taken second overall at the same time. Tomorrow’s stage is similar but a bit faster.”
Another day of tracks before the rally encounters more dunes later in the week lies ahead. Tuesday’s 632-kilometre stage 10 takes the field north from Cordoba to La Rioja in Argentina. It starts with a short 37-kilometre liaison section, followed by a 353-kilometre special stage and a 243-kilometre liaison section to the overnight bivouac. World Rally Championship-type fast, twisty roads on hard surfaces with gravel and stones will be the order of the day as the route passes through wooded areas and barren plateaus. It is a stage that holds good memories for De Villiers and von Zitzewitz, who drove through the area on their way to victory in 2009.