It was another good day for Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Imperial Toyota Hilux) in the Dakar Rally in South America, with the 2009 champions finishing Wednesday’s relatively short 172-kilometre special stage between Arequipa and Arica in fourth place and maintaining their third position in the overall car classification.
The stage was won by Spain’s Nani Roma and Michel Perin of France in a Mini from their team-mates and overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret. Americans Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch (Hummer) were third, but are well out of overall contention in 36th place, nearly six hours behind the leaders after their crash and radiator problems on Tuesday.
The competition for stage honours was particularly close with just 1 min 51 sec separating De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz in fourth and Roma/Perrin in first.
There were no changes in the top 10 overall positions, but Argentinians Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue in the customer Toyota Hilux #306 built by Toyota Motorsport in South Africa improved by two places to 25th overall after the disappointment of losing over three hours with damaged suspension on Tuesday.
De Villiers: “It was not a long stage but quite fast, twisty at the beginning. We had a small problem with the rear brakes – we lost a bit of rear brake, so we'll have to look at what the problem is tonight, but other than that it was a nice stage and beautiful along the beach.”
Von Zitzewitz: “Today was a short stage, not very hard on the car - almost a small rest day! We have a small problem with the rear brakes getting too hot, but the team is doing all they can to fix the problem. Today we could have done a bit better, but we lost time behind Guerlain Chicherit (SMG Buggy) who was not willing to let us through. Otherwise a very good and enjoyable day for us.”
Tomorrow will be a very difficult stage, the longest so far this year, but we are in a good starting position. Fourth place will assist to give us lines as well as to identify the soft spots in the dunes.
Thursday’s stage six from Arica to Calama consists of a 313-kilometre liaison stage and a 454-kilometre special stage – the first special stage in Chile and the longest of the rally so far. It’s back to the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, where competitors will face sand and dunes for two thirds of the distance. Two specific sections of the stage will be timed and they will rediscover fesh fesh(powdered sand), which is unlikely to enthuse them.