Spectacular – Toyota consolidates fifth place in the Dakar
Iquique/Chile It’s the adrenalin that really gets you going: Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof, Germany) finished what proved to be the most spectacular leg so far of the 2012 Dakar Rally with another respectable result. The 2009 Dakar winners finished the ninth leg between Antofagasta and Iquique with the sixth-best time of the day, thereby not only defending their fifth place overall, but also extending their lead over their closest competitor, Leonid Novitskiy driving what is thought to be a much more powerful X-raid-Mini. “Ginny” and “Schnietz”, as they like to call each other, were considered to be real outsiders with the Imperial Toyota Hilux that has been prepared by a private team, but have been performing well above expectations ever since the start of the rally. And now after what was probably the most spectacular stretch to the finishing line in motorsport anywhere in the world – an approximately two-kilometre descent to the bivouac by the Pacific, down the Cerro Drágon dune at a gradient edging the 40 per cent mark – it looks like what they had secretly hoped to achieve, namely a top five position, could actually be within reach. But before such an audacious dream can become reality for the underdogs, they first have to get through another five legs – four of which are in Peru, which is completely new territory for the Dakar.
The ninth Dakar leg left Antofagasta and crossed hard and fast stretches through the Sierra Miranda to Río Loa, the only Chilean river never to dry up as it leaves the Andes and crosses the Atacama Desert on its way to the Pacific. The 98- kilometre special stage was neutralised on its way through the Salar de Llamara salt formations, but the pace soon picked up again on the way to Iquique at Bahía Chiquinata and was cranked up even further with the leg’s spectacular descent to the bivouac. Already on the first timed section, the Hallspeed team’s two Imperial Toyota Hilux vehicles put on a solid team performance: de Villiers/von Zitzewitz finished the first 340 kilometres in sixth place, followed by their team colleagues Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (both of South Africa) in seventh place. In the second timed section, a 90-kilometre sprint to the finishing line, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz in the Hilux number 301 defended their sixth place, while Vos/Howie in number 313 were just pipped to the post by Carlos Sousa and came eighth. The leg was won by Robby Gordon in a Hummer, followed by Stéphane Peterhansel in second place, who therefore held on to his lead in the overall classification.
Glyn Hall, manager of the Imperial Toyota team, was delighted with the performances of the two Hilux racing pairs. “Well done, lads,” the South African said. “I’m really proud that we finished another challenging leg without a single technical hiccup.”
“We simply don’t have the power to keep pace with the Hummers and Minis. We aimed to get to the end of the leg without any technical setbacks or incidents and we did that pretty well.”
- Giniel de Villiers after stage nine of the Dakar Rally
“It’s been a long and very tough Dakar day and I am really pleased to have made it to Iquique. The leg was extended by 50 kilometres because the organisers had to take the route around two areas. It was classic Atacama: lots of powdery fech fech sand, scree and stones. It really took it out on some of the vehicles, as shown by our competitor Nasser Al-Attiyah dropping out. Which makes the fact that our Hilux crossed the finishing line without the slightest problem even more gratifying.”
- Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage nine of the Dakar Rally