Mr. and Mr. Reliable: Underdogs back in fourth place at the Dakar January 11th, 2012
Arica/Chile The underdog has shown its teeth once again – Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof/Germany) will start from fourth place overall when the Rally Dakar moves into uncharted terrain in Peru. The duo finished third fastest on the final stage in Chile, which took the toughest motorsport marathon in the world north from Iquique to Arica. As a result, the 2009 Dakar winners gained a position in the overall rankings and continue to far exceed expectations. The rank outsiders continued their reliable but consistently impressive drive, astutely avoiding damaging their privately run Imperial Toyota Hilux on tricky terrain that constantly threatened to destroy the competitors' material. The duo also avoided any navigation mistakes, although the organisers A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation) had made this aspect particularly difficult.
The route through the Pampa del Tamarugal began with a loop between the salt formations of the Salar de Llamara in the east and the Salar Grande in the west, initially on hard ground littered with debris, which regularly threatened to damage the suspension. After 219 of the 377 timed kilometres the drivers were faced with dunes and sandy routes, before returning to gravel for the final section towards the border between Chile and Peru. Right at the start of the stage, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz immediately benefited from the misfortune of their rival Krzysztof Holowczyz in the highly-fancied X-raid Mini, who damaged his steering, allowing the South African/German pairing to move into fourth place overall. The underdogs from the Imperial Toyota team have not dropped outside the top five since the Rally Dakar began – a result they could hardly have hoped for, even in their wildest dreams. To achieve this shock result under their own steam, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz must now overcome four more stages in uncharted territory for the Dakar, making the final push a real test for man and machine. From Thursday onwards, Peru will host the legendary desert rally for the first time, making it officially the 27th country to have staged the Dakar since 1979. The maxim "expect the unexpected" applies even more here.
The hot favourites from the X-raid Mini team claimed the top two spots on today's stage – Joan "Nani" Roma finishing ahead of Stéphane Peterhansel. Peterhansel remains on course for overall victory, and is now about 19 minutes ahead of his team-mate Roma.