De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz Second on Dakar Stage Five
Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) kept themselves in contention for a top three finish in the 2014 Dakar Rally in South America with a fine drive to second place in Thursday’s special stage five between Chilecito and Tucuman in Argentina. They are now fourth overall.
Despite being slowed by a brake problem and a puncture, which cost them more than four minutes, they completed the 527-kilometre racing section 4m 20s behind Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (MINI) and 15m 52s ahead of Americans Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch (Hummer).
Roma and Perin regained the overall lead they had enjoyed after stage three on Tuesday and are 31m 46s ahead of Argentine Orlando Terranova and Paulo Fiuza of Portugal (MINI). Third are defending champions Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France (MINI), 39m 59s in arrears and just 1m 25s ahead of 2009 Dakar winners De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
Toyota Imperial team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie got stuck in the second Toyota Hilux trying to skirt around a sand dune. They got out the sand ladders and freed the car by reversing out. Soon after the clutch started to stick and they had to stop to bleed it. They suspected that sand had got into the bellhousing.
Poulter, competing in his maiden Dakar, and Howie were classified 36th at the finish of the special stage and are now 30th overall.
Giniel de Villiers: “We had a pretty good day apart from losing our brakes 15 kilometres from the finish of the special stage. The stage was long and really hard on the car, but the Toyota’s performance was exceptional. Navigating was extremely difficult, but Dirk did a great job while other co-drivers struggled. We had a high speed puncture and the tyre caught fire, which we think caused the brake problem.”
Leeroy Poulter: “It was a long and tiring stage. It was very hot and we were grateful for the air conditioning inside the car. We lost quite a lot of time stopping to attend to the clutch, but we made up some time on the straight sections. This is a cruel race. One minute you’re up and the next you’re fighting for survival.”
Friday’s stage six from Tucuman to Salta is the last one before the rest day in Salta on Saturday. It will take competitors further north in Argentina along the renowned Ruta 40 and on into the heart of one of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. There are 270 kilometres of liaison and the racing section is 424 kilometres – the length of a single round of the South African cross country championship. To date the surviving field has completed nearly 4 000 kilometres of the 9 500 kilometre route, with just over 2 000 of the 5 000 kilometres of racing section under their belts.
The first car leaves the bivouac at the Hipodromo Avenida Leguizamo in Tucuman at 06:15 (11:15 SA time) and is expected at the finish in Salta at 16:35 (21:35).
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, 4×4 Mega World, Hallspeed, Mastercraft, NGK, Oakley, SKF, Spanjaard, Sparco and TFM.