Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz remain in third place after almost 3000 of the 8000km that form this year’s Dakar Rally. They trailed stage winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz in a buggy by 17m17s after one of the most challenging legs of the rally so far, which took the competitors through the Atacama Desert. The pair were struck by misfortune in the dunes: de Villiers and von Zitzewitz had no option but to slow down when they came across Nani Roma’s Mini, which unbeknown to them was stuck behind a crest. They were then forced to spend valuable time using sand ladders, deflating the tyres and shovelling for all their worth in order to free themselves from the situation.
Despite being seen as rank outsiders, they are still just 42m31s behind odds-on favourites Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret in the X-raid Mini in the overall classification. This in itself is a success worthy of recognition after a third of the total “Dakar” distance. Friday sees the Dakar Rally cross the border to Argentina via the picturesque Paso de Jama, with its literally breath-taking plateaus at over 4000m above sea level. The route then features two special stages in Argentina’s Sierras Pampeanas before the only rest day on this year’s rally provides the competitors with brief respite in Tucumán.
“We were actually going along nicely, but unfortunately we got stuck in the sand when we had to lift off the gas on the crest of a dune. Just behind the crest was ‘Nani’ Roma, who had got stuck there. Had we been warned – there was already an official there, after all – we would easily have avoided the situation. When we filled the tyres back up with air we also changed a wheel, as the tyre probably slipped off the rim when we let the air out. That cost more time. We are very happy with the time we spent actually driving. The time spent immobilised was just bad luck.” Giniel de Villiers
“A very demanding stage, particularly in the dunes. Unfortunately we had to get the shovels out once today. This was not really because we made a mistake, but because we had to slow down to avoid a rival. By the time we had slowed down it was too late. Apart from that, we ate a lot of dust today and it was not easy to overtake the bikes with that visibility. A huge compliment goes to our team, who worked into the night to improve the brake problems we encountered yesterday. Thank you, guys.” Dirk von Zitzewitz