SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION DOMINATES DAKAR RALLY The South African connection with strong ties to the Absa Off Road Championship dominated the first five placing in the Dakar Rally which ended in Buenos Aires over the weekend. The toughest race...
SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION DOMINATES DAKAR RALLY
The South African connection with strong ties to the Absa Off Road Championship dominated the first five placing in the Dakar Rally which ended in Buenos Aires over the weekend.
The toughest race in the world was won by South African star Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz in a factory Volkswagen Race Touareg. In a triumph for South Africa second place went to American Mark Miller and his South African co-driver, Ralph Pitchford, in a second VW Race Touareg.
De Villiers is a former SA Bankfin Touring Car and Absa Off Road champion and competed in three Dakar events for Nissan before being snapped up by the Volkswagen factory team. De Villiers was second on the 2006 event and is the first South African to win one of the prestige events on the international motorsport calendar.
Pitchford is also a former South African champion and sits alongside reigning South African champion Duncan Vos in a factory Sasol Nissan Navara. Race and testing commitments with Volkswagen saw Pitchford miss two events in last year's Absa Off Road Championship, and he finished second in the co-driver's championship.
De Villiers and von Zitzewitz finished eight minutes and 59 seconds ahead of Miller and Pitchford. Third were American crew Robbie Gordon and Andy Griderin a Hummer.
South Africa's Dakar cup overflowed when Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and his British co-driver, Quin Evans, and Pole Krysztof Holowczyc and Belgian Jean-Marc Fortin were fourth and fifth in Team Overdrive Nissan Navara entries. Tollefsen and Evans have been regulars in the Absa championship over the last two years, and the two Nissan Navara's were designed and built at the Nissan Motorsport headquarters in Midrand.
Nissan Motorsport chief Glynn Hall, who oversaw the design and construction of the Navara's, was manager of the Team Overdrive Nissan assault on the Dakar Rally. A third South African built Navara, in the hands of Hungarians Laszlo Palik and Gabor Darazsi finished 21st.
"The Dakar Rally results have been a triumph for South African motorsport and off road racing in this country," said Richard Schilling, president of the Motorsport SA Off Road Car Racing Commission. "It shows just how competitive the Absa Off Road Championship is, and Giniel has cemented his status as one of the top echelon rally raid drivers in the world.
"Over the last two years Ralph has also emerged as one of the leading co-drivers in the world. Everyone connected with motorsport in this country will be delighted with their success."
Schilling added one also had to pay tribute to Hall and his team at Nissan Motorsport. The Sasol Nissan team has dominated the Production Vehicle category in the Absa series for nearly a decade, and having two South African designed and built cars in the top five was a major achievement.
"The Dakar results again highlight the level of expertise and professionalism Glynn and his team have brought to off road racing," Schilling said. "They deserve all the plaudits that come their way."
For Hall and his technical crew it will be back to work when the 2009 Absa Off Road Championship opens in the Western Cape in March. The Western Cape 400 on March 20 and 21 will again be run in the Darling area.