DE VILLIERS AND VON ZITZEWITZ DEFEND THEIR THIRD PLACEJan 14, 2014
Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) successfully defended their third place overall in the Dakar Rally when they finished a frustrated seventh in Monday’s special stage eight, the first in Chile after seven stages and a rest day in Argentina.
The 302 kilometre racing section, which followed a 522 kilometre liaison section from Salta in Argentina that saw the Dakar cavalcade cross the Andes Mountains through the Paso de Jama at just under 5 000 metres above sea level, was the second high altitude test in a row and was characterised by high speeds and narrow roads with limited overtaking opportunities at an average altitude of around 3 000 metres.
The 2009 Dakar champions were stuck behind the Mini of Russian/Ukrainian duo Vladimir Vasilyev and Vitaliy Yevtyekhov for 150 kilometres.
“Despite making use of the Sentinel system, which signals the driver ahead that you want to overtake, he didn’t make space, even when we were right next to him,” said de Villiers. “We lost a lot of time, at least three minutes, as a result. Any chance we had of making up time on our rivals today was gone. It was very frustrating.”
The stage, which ended in Calama, was won by Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz in a Mini, who finished 1m 12s ahead of defending champions Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France (Mini) and 2m 36s in front of Spain’s Carlos Sainz and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk (SMG Buggy). de Villiers and von Zitzewitz were 9m 21s behind the leaders and just two seconds slower than sixth-placed Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (Mini).
Roma and Perin remain in the overall lead with a reduced gap of 23m 46s to Peterhansel and Cottret. de Villiers and von Zitzewitz are 48m 25s in arrears and are now under threat from Argentina’s Orlando Terranova and Paulo Fiuza of Portugal (Mini), who have closed the gap to 3m 30s.
Toyota Imperial team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie made a good recovery from their steering problems on Sunday that saw them drop some three hours to the leaders. They finished 29th on the stage and improved their overall position to 28th and are now 10h 30m 28s behind the leaders.
“We had a better day today and were able to pass a few cars and improve our position in the general classification,” said Poulter. “Overtaking was not easy as the tracks were narrow and the pace was very fast. We’ll have a much better start position for Tuesday’s stage and will be looking to make further progress through the field.”
Stage nine, from Calama to the 2014 Dakar’s most northern point at Iquique, starts with a 27 kilometre liaison section, followed by a 422 kilometre racing section that reveals the Pacific Ocean for the first time and re-introduces competitors to the dunes of the Atacama Desert, said to be the driest place in the world where no rain has ever been recorded in some places. The spectacular descent of a giant sand dune to the overnight bivouac is guaranteed to attract thousands of enthusiastic spectators.
The rally leaders will leave Calama at 08:48 (13:48 South African time) and the first arrival in Iquique is expected at 14:48 (19:48).
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.