Toyota Motorsport’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Imperial Toyota Hilux #301) and Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (Imperial Toyota Hilux #312) successfully negotiated the first day of the 15-day 2013 Dakar Rally in South America on Saturday, finishing ninth and 13th overall respectively in the car category.

#301 Toyota: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz
#301 Toyota: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

The 34th running of the world’s longest and toughest motor race started in Lima on the Pacific west coast of Peru and took the 449-strong entry of cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads south on a 250-kilometre liaison section to Pisco. The day ended with a 13-kilometre special stage in the sand dunes on the outskirts of the coastal town of Pisco.

2009 Dakar winners De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz completed the special stage in a time of 8 min 15 sec, 35 seconds behind the winners, 2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz of Spain and Timo Gottschalk of Germany in a buggy. Current South African off road champions Vos and Howie finished 44 seconds in arrears.

“It was quite an easy stage today and not much more than a warm-up for the more serious challenges that lie ahead,” said De Villiers, who is competing in his 10th Dakar and his second in the South African-built Toyota Hilux. The modest 40-year-old from Stellenbosch is referred to as “the quiet South African” and is rated by race favourite and 2012 winner Stephane Peterhansel of France as “the driver to beat”.

Peterhansel, driving a Mini with compatriot Jean Paul Cottret, was eighth on Saturday’s opening stage, one second ahead of De Villiers.

Vos, competing in his second Dakar after he and Howie finished 10th last year in an Imperial Toyota Hilux, was relieved the race was finally underway. “It’s been a long build-up with a lot of preparation and hard work by the whole team. It’s great to be back and we’re looking forward to the serious business of taking on the Dakar and reaching the finish in Santiago in Chile on January 20.”

Sunday’s 242-kilometre special stage two follows an 85-kilometre liaison section and will see competitors immediately thrown a stiff challenge of sand dunes and hot temperatures. They will return to Pisco for a second night.

Toyota Motorsports