GINIEL de Villiers has experienced a tough old time in this year’s Dakar rally, and there seems little chance of a podium for the South African who lies in sixth place as the event heads towards its finish in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The Toyota Gazoo Hilux driver is one of many to fall victim to technical and navigational problems in the unforgiving South American wilderness, which among others claimed his teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah who retired from the rally last week after ripping a wheel off his Hilux.
Stage three was one to forget for the South Africa-based Toyota team when Al-Attiyah retired and De Villiers lost nearly 30 minutes with a fuel pressure problem. The misery continued in the following days when De Villiers and his German navigator Dirk von Zietzewitz got stuck in the sand, experienced punctures, and lost their way.
Extreme weather saw stage six cancelled and stage seven shortened to just 161 km, but the latter stage turned out to be a turning point for Giniel who claimed third place and moved up to sixth overall. However, his normally-aspirated Toyota has been unable to match the pace of the turbocharged Peugeots in the high altitudes.
With yesterday’s stage cancelled after many competitors were unable to complete Tuesday’s stage in time, the rally resumed today with former WRC star Sebastian Loeb leading the car standings ahead of his Peugeot team-mates Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres - all in two wheel drive 3008 DKRs.
Nani Roma lies fourth in the leading Toyota Hilux, ahead of Mini’s Mikko Hirvonen in fifth.
Today sees a return to lower altitudes, where the Toyotas should be able to better challenge the Peugeots.
The motorcycle category is led by Britain’s Sam Sunderland on a KTM ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla on a Husqvarna and Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren on a Yamaha. South Africa’s Joey Evans (KTM), a former paraplegic, is the only remaining South African in 98th place after David Thomas crashed his Husqvarna out on stage five, with Walter Terblanche retired after suffering ongoing fuel quality issues on his KTM.
Giniel De Villiers and co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz navigate the dunes during the 7th stage of the Dakar rally between Oruro and Uyuni in Bolivia.
Sebastien Loeb on Tuesday took the lead of the Dakar rally from his Peugeot team-mate Stephane Peterhansel.