Three punctures and a narrow miss – #302 drops back
El Salvador, 16 January 2014 Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz once again found the Rally Dakar at its most remorseless on leg eleven. The duo in the Toyota Hilux suffered three punctures on Thursday, losing valuable time in the overall standings as a result. Despite this, the #302 car still clocked the third fastest time of the day at the end of the 605-kilometre stage from Antofagasta to El Salvador in Chile, 12:38 minutes behind today’s winner Orlando Terranova in his Mini.
However, despite all their bad luck, “GdV” and “DvZ” did have a stroke of good fortune: after two punctures on the gravel routes at the start of today’s special stage – each of which cost de Villiers and von Zitzewitz about two minutes – the South African and his German co-driver had a terrifying moment shortly before the finish line in El Salvador. In the sandy Atacama Desert – the Dunes of Copiapó to be precise – the Toyota drifted out of a corner and straight down an embankment. The pickup came within a whisker of rolling down the slope. Thankfully the car and drivers were spared, but another tyre bit the dust in the process, ruling out any hopes of a better result.
#302 lost a place in the overall standings, dropping from fourth to fifth, and now lies 1:15.57 hours behind the leader and about 20 minutes off the third-placed car.
“That was a very long stage in very difficult conditions today. It all started really well for us. The car is running superbly and we were able to match the pace of Roma and Peterhansel in the Minis. After that it was up and down like a seesaw. We had a puncture and lost a lot of time as a result, but we were able to fight back. Then another tyre let go. The third puncture at the end really put us over the edge. Despite this, I am happy that we got away with just a puncture from that drift. That was definitely a worrying moment. Another tough stage with a lot of sand awaits us tomorrow, then the last day should be easier.”
Giniel de Villiers after stage 11
“A difficult day, but in many ways we still got away lightly. The first part of the stage was actually really good until the two punctures, but we obviously lost a lot of time through the flat tyres. That basically denied us a better result today. Who knows what might have been possible without those incidents. But that is the Dakar for you – nothing ever runs completely smoothly. We are very lucky that we reached the finish relatively unscathed. The near miss just before the finish was really scary. I honestly thought we were going to end up on the roof. We may not be too far off third place in the overall standings, but I don’t believe we can finish on the podium without a little help. The Minis are too strong to catch.”
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 11
Results: Dakar Rally overall classification after leg 11
01. Joan Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 45h 01m 54s
02. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 45h 07m 26s
03. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (Q/E), Mini, 45h 57m 55s
04. Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (RA/P), Mini, 46h 05m 33s
05. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 46h 17m 51s
06. Krzsyztof Holowczyc/Konstantin Zhiltsov (PL/RU), Mini, 48h 46m 45s
oming up: Stage 12 preview
El Salvador–La Serena (liaison: 0, special stage: 350, liaison: 349 km)
The competitors must once again overcome treacherous sandy slopes on the penultimate stage of this year’s Rally Dakar. The leg starts in the mountains around El Salvador, from where the route winds its way back down into the valley and the Atacama Desert – to the Dunes of Copiapó. Dunes? That rings a bell… Once again, the fine sand means there is an extremely high risk of getting bogged down here. Tomorrow is made particularly demanding by the fact that the huge sandy obstacles come towards the end of the stage. The key here is to remain focussed right through to the end. A retirement so close to the finish would be extremely frustrating, to say the least.
#302, in the driving seat: Giniel de Villiers
If awards were given out for versatility in motorsport, Giniel de Villiers would be a hot favourite to pick up the special prize for lifetime achievement. The likeable, down-to-earth racing driver from Stellenbosch in South Africa won five national touring car titles in South Africa, defeating his subsequent Team Principal in the Volkswagen works team Kris Nissen and other top European stars on the way, before switching to marathon rallying. Giniel de Villiers describes himself as an “outdoorsy person”, who loves being in the fresh air. Whether on a jet ski or a mountain bike, de Villiers is always looking for action. However, in both his sporting and private lives, intelligent discretion is one of the real hallmarks of “Ginny”. As such, his second career away from tarmacked roads and permanent racetracks has also been a distinguished one: together with his co-driver at the time, Tina Thörner (S), he finished second at the 2006 Rally Dakar with Volkswagen – a milestone, as this was at the time the highest place ever achieved by a pair in a diesel-powered vehicle. His big breakthrough came when the Rally Dakar made its debut outside of the Black Continent in 2009: with co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz at his side, the pair achieved a historic success: the first victory by an African, the first in a diesel car, and the first ever win in South America.
#302, calling the shots: Dirk von Zitzewitz
Dirk von Zitzewitz has literally been at home in the navigator’s seat since he took his first breath: the German was born in precisely the spot, in which he has enjoyed his greatest sporting success – in the passenger seat. The co-driver from Ostholstein is regarded as one of the best in his profession. In 2009, he and his driver Giniel de Villiers won the first Dakar ever to be held in South America. New territory? For Dirk von Zitzewitz, the terrain away from tarmacked roads is the perfect place to demonstrate his natural, instinctive talent for finding the right way. His success and reputation are no fluke: even as a teenager, Zitzewitz used to play ‘Dakar’ with a friend and a rickety old moped. Back then, the event was still establishing itself and was yet to develop the international prestige it enjoys today. Despite this, it still cast a spell on the off-road enthusiast from north Germany. Dirk von Zitzewitz won the German Enduro Championship title on 15 occasions, before going on to compete in three Dakars on a motorbike. As a co-driver to a number of different drivers, he has competed in the mother of all desert rallies every year since 2002. In 2012 Zitzewitz came full circle: it was ten years since he made his first appearance in a car – again a privately run Toyota. In 2014 the De-Villiers-von-Zitzewitz-Toyota combination enters the third round. In the meantime, he has achieved great success: this is reflected in eleven podiums – five of which were victories – 33 stage wins and 31 days leading events in a car. As such, Dirk von Zitzewitz is already one of the most successful co-drivers of all time on the marathon rally scene.
The “Dakar” on TV
Thursday, 16 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 11th leg, highlights
Friday, 17 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 12th leg, highlights