NO PLACE TO REST: The 2015 Dakar Rally cars and their crews were on their own after Stage 7 on the traditional run into the mountains - no back-up crews allowed. Image: Toyota SA / Marc Bow
UYUNI, Bolivia - As if the Dakar Rally isn't tough enough, the crews had to go off into Bolivia on their own for Stage 7 on Saturday (Jan 10) without the support of their service crews to welcome them at the end of the day.
For Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, in one of the Toyota Imperial Hiluxes, however, it was a fantastic stage that saw the crew post the sixth-fastest time and take three minutes out of rally leader Nasser al-Attiyah’s (Mini) in the process.
The stage was run between the towns of Iquique on Chile's northern coast and Uyuni on the salt flats of Bolivia. The 321km of racing starting at an altitude of 3600m before ending on the Salar de Uyuni at more than 4000m.
'WHAT A GREAT DAY'
Stage 7 forced the crews to race without the benefit of a full-scale bivouac at night. Instead, each race crew was responsible for servicing and repairing their own race vehicle - one of the long-standing traditions of the Dakar.
"What a great day for us," said De Villiers from the small bivouac at Uyuni. "Not only did we keep the pressure on Nasser but we also managed to take some time from him.
“We just need to keep going the way we've been going and push when we can push. There's still a lot of racing to come, so who knows how this will play out."
THIN AIR, HIGH PERFORMANCE
Al-Attiyah made a mistake early on the stage, letting the Toyota crew past in the process. That meant De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz had to open the road, making navigation tricky. However, the pair again commented on the reliability of their Toyota Imperial Hilux, which ran faultlessly on the mentally-testing marathon stage.
"We really had no issues on the ascent to Uyuni and, while we were worried about the thin air at altitude where our non-turbo V8 engine is at a disadvantage, we managed to close the gap to the leader slightly - all credit to our race vehicle."
Meanwhile, Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux posted the 11th-fastest time on the stage and moved up to 17th overall - a great performance that should have seen them back in the top starting positions for Stage 8.
Unfortunately for them the next stage is run as a continuation of Stage 7, without the benefit of a reshuffle before the start. As such they will be forced to start 40th position yet again after their tough day on Stage 6.
'WE'RE COMING BACK!'
"Those first checkpoints just flew by for us," said Poulter after the stage. "We did really well to go so fast in the beginning but then lost a bit of time to the leaders. The Hilux did everything we expected of it, and more, and we are in a good position for Stage 8."
Next up is a return from the high altitude of Uyuni back down to Iquique, ending with a descent of the now famous dune behind the bivouac.
Team principal Glyn Hall said after hearing the two bakkies had reach Uyuni safely: "We are looking forward to coming back down to lower altitudes.
“The crew in the bivouac is standing by to give the race vehicles some tender loving care after the marathon stage. If both can just keep doing what they did today we'll be in a great position come the rest day."
NEXT: STAGE 8 - AND A REST DAY
Stage 8 will see the crews start on the salt flats near Uyuni in Bolivia before the descent back to the Chilean coast. The route is 500km and will see the teams race down the massive dune for which Iquique has become famous.
Monday will be a rest day, which traditionally marks the mid-point of the Dakar - but more important is that it marks a return to lower altitudes m ore suited to the V8 engine that powers each of the Toyota Imperial SA Dakar Team bakkies.Stay with Wheels24 for daily coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Rally results on Saturday after Stage 7 from Iquique in Chile to Uyuni
in Bolivia (717km stage/321km timed). It was a rest day for motorcycles
Auto Stage 7
1 Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue (ARG/ARG/Mini) 3hr31min18
2 Yazeed al-Rajhi/Timo Gttschalk (KSA/GER/Toyota) 2min20
3 Bernhard Ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul (NED/BEL/Toyota) 2min28
4 Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (POL/FRA/Mini) 2min57
5 Nani Roma/Michel Perin (ESP/FRA/Mini) 4min02
6 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) 6min5
7 Nasser al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Mini) 9min48
8 Stephane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret (FRA/FRA/Peugeot) 10min43
9 Robby Gordon/Johnny Campbell (USA/USA/Gordini) 10min48
10 Vladimir Vasilyev/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS/Mini) 13min32
Overall (after seven stages)
1 Nasser al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Mini) 23hr11min50. (penalty: 2min00)
2 Giniel de Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) 8min14
3 Yazeed al-Rajhi/Timo Gttschalk (KSA/GER/Toyota) 21min16
4 Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (POL/FRA/Mini) 54min02
5 Bernhard Ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul (NED/BEL/Toyota) 57min03
6 Erik Van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar (NED/NED/Mini) 1h 15min11
7 Christian Lavieille/Pascal Maimon (FRA/FRA/Toyota) 1hr 37min50
8 Stephane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret (FRA/FRA/Peugeot) 1hr 50min36
9 Carlos Sousa/Paulo Fiuza (POR/POR/Mitsubishi) 1hr 58min32
10 Ronan Chabot/Gilles Pillot (FRA/FRA/SMGg) 2hr 10min45