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Seventh place on Wednesday’s fourth special stage between San Juan and Chilecito in Argentina saw 2009 winners Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) maintain sixth place overall on the Dakar Rally. But it might have been a very different story had they not again experienced power steering problems which robbed them of a possible stage win.

It was the longest stage of the race so far – 868 kilometres in all with a racing section of 657 kilometres.  They were lying second at the 470-kilometre mark when they were forced to stop to check the power steering. At the same time they realised they also had a slow puncture. They lost some 14 minutes before they were able to continue.

“It’s very disappointing,” admitted De Villiers. “We had a real chance of winning the special stage today. Apart from the steering issue the performance of the car is perfect. We can’t afford to keep losing time like this and will have to put in a big effort tomorrow and in the days ahead to reduce the gap to the leaders.”

The Dakar Rally is not regarded as the world’s toughest motor racing challenge for nothing.  When you think you’ve got things under control, the Dakar bites back!  The first four days of the 2014 edition have seen even the most experienced competitors rise and fall on the leader board.

For rookie Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Rob Howie in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux it was a bad day after three good days which saw them in 10th place overall after finishing an excellent third on Tuesday’s special stage. Damaged dampers left them stranded just 50 kilometres into the special stage and they were forced to wait for some three hours for their assistance truck before they could get going again.

“We were lying second and were chasing Nani Roma when we hit a step-up at speed on a long straight section. The impact broke the right rear dampers and we were forced to stop. After the T4 truck arrived and we replaced the dampers we had no further problems. The car ran perfectly otherwise.”

They have dropped from 10th to 29th overall after being classified as 59th on the stage, 3h 38m 35s behind the winning pair of Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk of Germany in an SMG Buggy. Defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France were second in a MINI ahead of team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Lucas Cruz of Spain.

Sainz and Gottschalk now lead overall by 2m 6s from Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (MINI). Al-Attiyah and Cruz are third, another 4m 52s in arrears. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 39m 10s behind the leaders, while Poulter and Howie have a daunting deficit of 4h 11m 43s.

Thursday’s stage five from Chilecito to Tucuman is the longest of the rally at 912 kilometres, with 385 of liaison and 527 of racing. The special stage will be mostly sand with high temperatures expected as the competitors tackle off-track sections all day. At the bivouac in Tucuman, the candidates for the final podium will have been whittled down to a select few, as many of them will no longer be a part of the elite group.    

The stage gets underway at 06:03 (11:03 SA time) and the first car is expected to reach the finish at 18:05.    

Toyota Motorsport South Africa Acknowledges Its Dakar Sponsors, Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota, Imperial Toyota Group, Duxbury Netgear, Innovation Group, Toyota Financial Services, SAA Cargo, Blue Sky, Bosch, Castrol, DeWalt, Donaldson, Edgecam, 4x4 Mega World, Hallspeed, Mastercraft, NGK, Oakley, SKF, Spanjaard, Sparco and TFM.

For more information on Toyota Imperial SA Team, please contact:

South Africa:
Leo Kok
Senior Manager: Corporate Communications
Toyota South Africa Motors
+27 82 327 2763

South America:
Delia Jackson
Manager: Motorsport and Sponsorships
Toyota South Africa Motors (Pty) Ltd

or go to www.toyota.co.za