The Dakar Rally resumes in the Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucuman today after a welcome rest day on Sunday brought an end to the first week of the world’s longest and toughest motor race.
While Toyota Imperial South Africa team principal Glyn Hall is very pleased with the performance so far, he is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Sunday’s rest day provided an opportunity for some relaxation and reflection, but also for preparation for week two.
“We’ve already completed the equivalent of five rounds of the South African off road championship in a week. The rest day is a valuable break in routine for the team after an intense eight days. Although we’ve worked through a busy schedule of stripping, checking and replacing components, we have had less work than last time.
“The new evolution Hilux has had no problems apart from a small issue with the brakes overheating early in the race and this was quickly fixed. It’s a much better vehicle and is the result of all that we have learnt in last year’s Dakar and in testing during the year, including running in the final round of the South African championship. Giniel is very happy with the new Hilux and has made an invaluable contribution to its development.”
As for expectations for week two, De Villiers had this to say: “It’s too early to make predictions. This applies equally one kilometre before the finish of the Dakar. Expect the unexpected – there is certainly truth in that old Dakar maxim, as we have discovered all too often. This time we have achieved a lot and are proud of our third place. But we have not won anything yet. Some long and tough days still lie ahead, plus inhospitable terrain that needs to be tamed. I believe, though, that we are well prepared.”
Co-driver Von Zitzewitz believes that, while the opening stages were significantly tougher than expected, the real test is still to come:“The Dakar going was tough, but probably not the toughest of all times.But it is these enormous challenges that lead one to contest the Dakar Rally. The legendary stages such as those around La Rioja and in the Fiambalá region lie ahead. We are really looking forward to them.”
In the general classification after the first eight stages, Frenchmen Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret lead in their four-wheel drive diesel Mini. Second is the Qatari/Spanish combination of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz, who are 3 min 14 sec behind in a two-wheel drive petrol Buggy. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 44 min 3 sec down on the leaders in the Imperial Toyota Hilux. They are leading the four-wheel drive petrol class.
Monday’s special stage nine from San Miguel de Tucuman to Cordoba is the longest of the event, a marathon test over 533 kilometres split into two parts with liaison sections leading into both. The battle resumes on the flood plains and in the forests of Argentina. A dry day will see a high-speed race over a torturous route in the first half, with quick tracks and winding sections. The second half is much more technical with forests and lots of bends. Caution will be the watchword as the rapidassistance trucks won’t have access to the route today.