Smooth penultimate day of the Dakar – #302 back up to fourth
La Serena, 17 January 2014 After the storm comes the calm. This is a pretty accurate summary of the penultimate day of this year’s Rally Dakar for Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz. And, in one regard at least, it doesn’t get any calmer than the driest region in the world: the Atacama Desert, which the duo had to negotiate once again today. Having suffered three punctures on Thursday, the duo in the #302 car was spared any such problems on Friday. The 350-kilometre twelfth stage once again represented a genuine challenge, but “GdV” and “DvZ” guided their Imperial Toyota Hilux safely through the treacherous terrain to clock the fourth fastest time of the day. Giniel and Dirk climbed another place in the overall rankings, pulling ahead of Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiúza (Mini) into an impressive fourth.
Today’s route took the South African/German duo from El Salvador to La Serena (both Chile). Gravel roads in the mountains took them back down into the Atacama Desert, which the 2009 winners had already had to tackle twice this week. The main difficulty here is the very fine sand, which has already literally gobbled up many competitors on this year’s “Dakar” and brought their rally to a premature end. However, #302 came through the challenge unscathed and is now just one stage from finishing fourth.
“Today we had a much better day than yesterday. We had no problems all day long and were very quick, particularly at the start of the special stage. The route was not easy at all. Early on, the route took us on gravel roads, which were crossed by several dry river beds. You really had to be careful not to damage the suspension there. However, Dirk got me through it safely – as always. You can always depend on him. Later on we headed into the dunes of the Atacama Desert, which we already knew from previous stages. The desert poses a new challenge every time. We kept pace really well with the Minis on the gravel section, but they pulled away from us in the sand. The diesel cars, with their high torque, definitely have an advantage there. Tomorrow is the final spurt. We have almost done it.”
Giniel de Villiers after stage 12
“A good day. We were gaining on Nani Roma – particularly at the beginning. The gravel roads suited our car, and we were right behind him by the 250-kilometre mark. However, we did not stand a chance against the Minis. We did close back in on them a bit later on, probably because they were having navigational problems – particularly our closest rival Orlando Terranova. On the whole, things went very well for us, even though the leg was very demanding. We made the most of the day, so we are happy. Another typical rally stage on gravel awaits us tomorrow. Not a lot ought to change in the rankings now – provided you stay on the road and avoid any punctures. The race is still not over.”
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 12
Results: Dakar Rally overall classification after leg 12
01. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 48h 45m 45s
02. Joan Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 48h 46m 11s
03. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (Q/E), Mini, 49h 39m 52s
04. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 50h 06m 58s
05. Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiúza (RA/P), Mini, 50h 13m 42s
06. Krzsyztof Holowczyc/Konstantin Zhiltsov (PL/RU), Mini, 52h 43m 10s
Coming up: Stage 13 preview
La Serena–Valparaíso (liaison: 122, special stage: 157, liaison: 256 km)
Here it is at last: the finishing straight at the toughest endurance rally in the world! From La Serena, the route takes the competitors along the Pacific coast of Chile towards the finish in Valparaíso. Given the total distance covered over the past fortnight – 9,374 kilometres – the 157-kilometre special stage seems almost laughable at first glance. But beware: anything can still happen on the final leg, as many competitors have found out to their cost in the past. And the last day of the 2014 Rally Dakar is by no means without its perils: lying in wait in the mountains are more demanding gravel routes, which lead the competitors through large cactus plantations. The sturdy thorns have caused more than the odd puncture.
#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
Friday, 17 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 12th leg, highlights
Saturday, 18 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 13th leg, highlights
Sunday, 19 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 13th leg, highlights (re-run)