DON'T GIVE UP, GINIEL! South African Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers at speed on Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally. He reckons time lost at a way point has cost him the race - what do YOU say? Image: AP / Felipe Dana
A navigation bungle on Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally dealt a serious blow to South African driver Giniel de Villiers' title hopes on Tuesday – in fact he thinks his race might be over.
The Toyota SA driver and his Hilux finished the stage fourth but 22 minutes behind stage winner Nani Roma of Spain.
Race leader Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar (Mini) finished the day second fastest to extend his advantage over De Villiers and his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz to 24 minutes in the overall classification.
‘NOTHING YOU CAN DO’
De Villiers told dakar.com after the stage: “It was not our day. We made a terrible, terrible navigation mistake that's cost us the race so we're sure now that we can only try to consolidate something on the podium.
“The race is over for us… sometimes it goes like this in the Dakar and there's nothing you can do about it."
While De Villiers, who is still second overall, believed his chances of winning his second Dakar were done, there was still a slim chance al-Attiyah could also slip up during the final stages.
"It's not impossible but with the lead he has now he can take it really easy," De Villiers said. "It was our mistake and we have to pay. It's not nice to always fight for second.
"It's very disappointing but it's happened and there's nothing we can do about it now - it's finished."
So Toyota SA's Giniel de Villliers and Dirk von Zitzewitz are 24 minutes down on race leader Nasser al-Attiyah with four days to go. Do YOU reckon his race is over - give him a 'Don't Give Up, Giniel!' LIKE on Wheels24's Facebook page or use the Readers' Comments section below for a message of encouragement. Wheels24 says: 'Go Giniel!'
Al-Attiyah was relieved after a solid performance on what he said was a difficult stage while he believed they did enough to clinch the race. "It was not easy but I think we made a good job of it and I hope it will be enough to win the Dakar," the Mini driver said.
"I think we did a good job and to finish here in front of Giniel is the key."
Toyota's other South African team of Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Robert Howie finished the stage in 23rd place, half-an-hour behind the winner, dropping one place to 18th on the overall standings.
South Africa's Nissan Prodakar team of Johan van Staden and Mark Lawrenson remained 33rd in the general classification after finishing the stage in 48th place.
In the quad section, South African rookie Dakar rider Willem Saaijman finished the stage in 10th place for a ranking of 12th on the overall standings.
Meanwhile, South African rider Riaan van Niekerk was forced withdraw from the race in the biking category after his motorcycle broke down in a salt pan on Monday.
This came only a day after he produced his best performance of this year's Dakar, posting the eighth fastest time on Sunday.
Stay with Wheels24 for daily coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.