SA raises the Dakar bar

De Vil­liers scores 10th top five plac­ing while Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA prove hot

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

ROSARIO (Ar­gentina) — Giniel de Vil­liers scored his 10th top five plac­ing and Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA fin­ished with two cars in the top five when this year’s Dakar, widely ac­cepted as the tough­est event in world mo­tor­sport, fin­ished here on Sun­day.

De Vil­liers and Ger­man co­driver Dirk von Zitze­witz fin­ished third be­hind Stephane Peter­hansel/Jean-Paul Cot­tret (Peu­geot) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (MINI) af­ter two weeks of rac­ing through Bo­livia and Ar­gentina. The Toy­ota pair were un­der pres­sure from Mikko Hir­vo­nen/Michel Perin (MINI) on the 13th and fi­nal stage, but held their nerve to se­cure their se­cond podium fin­ish in a row.

Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try cham­pi­ons Leeroy Poul­ter and Rob Howie were clas­si­fied fifth over­all with a third Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA team in Yazeed Al-Ra­jhi and Timo Gottschalk 11th in the fi­nal clas­si­fi­ca­tion. At the half­way mark the Toy­ota crews were ly­ing sixth, sev­enth and eighth with Al-Ra­jhi and Gottschalk fall­ing back when they lost a wheel on the 10th spe­cial stage.

For Peter­hansel it was his 12th Dakar win on two and four wheels and Peu­geot’s first since 1990. How­ever, De Vil­liers also has an im­pres­sive Dakar record and driv­ing for Nis­san, Volk­swa­gen and Toy­ota he has a win in 2009, with Von Zitze­witz, and four se­cond places among his 10 top five fin­ishes.

Con­sis­tency is the key word where De Vil­liers and Von Zitze­witz are con­cerned. Since join­ing the Toy­ota sta­ble un­der team prin­ci­pal Glyn Hall in 2012, the for­mer South African Tour­ing Car cham­pion and the Ger­man have never fin­ished out of the top five and four of their five starts for Toy­ota have pro­duced places on the podium.

For Poul­ter and Howie who dom­i­nated last year’s Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship in South Africa, fifth place was a quan­tum leap. The South African cham­pi­ons fin­ished 33rd and 16th in 2014 and 2015, and this year came within a whisker of a maiden Dakar stage win on the penul­ti­mate day.

“It was fan­tas­tic to see all three of our cars make it to the fin­ish,” said Hall, “and to have two of them in the top five is a great achieve­ment. The re­sults proved that the Toy­ota Hilux can com­pete at the top end of in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport.”

Three other cars with strong South African con­nec­tions also fin­ished in the top 20 on an event char­ac­terised by a mix of high and low tem­per­a­tures, a sand­storm and heavy rains. Af­ter ly­ing 31st over­all at the end of the first leg, Mark Cor­bett and Juan Mohr (Cen­tury Rac­ing CR5) went on a charge that lifted them to 17th over­all and gave them the over­all win in the class for petrol two wheel drive cars.

Right be­hind the Cen­tury Rac­ing crew in 18th and 19th were two Re­nault Dusters built by Thomp­son Rac­ing at their fa­cil­ity in Kyalami. Ar­gen­tini­ans Emil­iano Spataro and Ben­jamin Lozada lost a lit­tle time on the se­cond leg to fall out of the top 10, but French­men Chris­tian Lavieille and Jean-Michel Po­lato, in an older Duster, kept pace with Cor­bett and Mohr to move up from 32nd to 19th.

While Cor­bett and Mohr were on the move, it was tougher go­ing for team-mates Colin Matthews and Rod­ney Burke, in the se­cond Cen­tury Rac­ing CR5. Nig­gling prob­lems made life dif­fi­cult for the pair on the se­cond leg, and they dropped a place to fi­nally fin­ish 37th over­all and third in the two-wheel drive petrol class.

A lit­tle fur­ther back there were mixed for­tunes for the Re­gent Rac­ing Nis­san Navara team. Dakar rook­ies Sean Reitz and Ri­aan Greyling fin­ished 36th over­all, but the team lost the se­cond car when the Ger­man father and son crew of Jur­gen and Daniel Schroeder rolled on the penul­ti­mate stage.

Un­til three years ago Reitz had never sat in a race car, but the crew stuck to their guns through some dif­fi­cult times. For the Schroed­ers, how­ever, rolling out of the event pro­vided the sting in the tail that was a cruel blow for the Re­gent Rac­ing squad.

“Once again South African crews, car builders and tech­ni­cal crew have come up trumps on an iconic event,” said Sanora chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Siegfried Rousseau. “It is more proof, if that were needed, of the high stan­dards and pro­fes­sion­al­ism that is abound in cross coun­try mo­tor rac­ing in this coun­try.

“We can be proud of the South African con­nec­tion at Dakar this year, and their per­for­mances have set the tone for when the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship gets un­der way later this year.”

PHOTO: RE­GENT RAC­ING

South Africa’s Dakar rook­ies Sean Reitz and Ri­aan Greyling fin­ished 36th over­all for Re­gent Rac­ing.

PHOTO: TOY­OTA

Nav­i­ga­tor Dirk von Zitze­witz (left) and Giniel de Vil­liers.

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