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2013-01-15 05:21

SA'S DAKAR HOPES STILL ALIVE: De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 44min3 behind race leaders in their Toyota Hilux. The pair are leading the four-wheel drive petrol class.

PETER BURROUGHES

SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, Argentina - The 2013 Dakar Rally resumed in the Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucuman on Monday after a welcome rest day on January 13 brought an end to the first week of the world’s longest and toughest vehicle race.

2013 Dakar: Stage 9 image gallery

After more than 4500km since the start in Lima, Peru, on January 5 2013, including more than 2000km of timed special stages, South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were third overall in the general classification in their Toyota Hilux.

'NO PROBLEMS WITH HILUX'

While Toyota team principal Glyn Hall said: “We’ve already completed the equivalent of five rounds of the South African Off-Road championship in a week. 

“The new evolution Hilux has had no problems apart from a small issue with the brakes overheating early in the race and this was quickly fixed.

"It’s a much better vehicle and is the result of all that we have learnt in the 2012 Dakar and in testing during the year, including running in the final round of the South African championship. Giniel is very happy with the new Hilux and has made an invaluable contribution to its development."

As for expectations for Week 2, Villiers said: “It’s too early to make predictions. This applies equally one kilometre before the finish of the Dakar. Expect the unexpected – there is certainly truth in that old Dakar maxim, as we have discovered all too often.

"This time we have achieved a lot and are proud of our third but we haven't won anything yet. Some long and tough days still lie ahead, plus inhospitable terrain that needs to be tamed. I believe, though, that we are well prepared."

Co-driver Zitzewitz believes that, while the opening stages were significantly tougher than expected, the real test was still to come: “The Dakar going was tough, but probably not the toughest of all. It is these enormous challenges that lead one to contest the Dakar The legendary stages such as those around La Rioja and in the Fiambalá region lie ahead. We are really looking forward to them."

LONGEST SECTION

In the general classification after the first eight stages, Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret led in their all-wheel drive diesel Mini. Second are Nasser al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz, 3min14 behind in a two-wheel drive petrol Buggy.
 
Monday's Special Stage 9 from San Miguel de Tucuman to Cordoba will be the longest of the event, with drivers crossing 533km split into two parts with liaison sections leading into both.

The battle will resumes on the flood plains and in the forests of Argentina. A dry day will see a high-speed race over a tortuous route in the first half while the second will be much more technical with forests and bends.

Drivers will have be careful as the rapid assistance trucks won’t have access to the route.

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