SA pair run well in high Andes
LONG WAY FROM HOME: SA homeboys Giniel de Viliers and Dirk von Zitzewitz on a wideopen stretch of Stage 7 of the 2013 Dakar Rally in their SA Hilux. They finished 5th on the stage and are running 3rd overall. Image: STUART WILLLAMS
Author: PETER BURROUGHES
Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz and their SA-built Toyota Hilux enjoyed a trouble-free run through Stage 7 of the Dakar Rally between Calama in Chile and Salta in Argentina on Friday.
It was a relatively short 218km timed section and they finished fifth to strengthen their third place in the general classification after the first week of the 8500km race.
They continue to lead the four-wheel drive petrol T1.1 class in their SA-built Hilux.
It was another day successfully completed by the 2009 Dakar winners, a day that started in the small hours as the Dakar crossed into Argentina over the Andes mountains at an altitude of 4900m.
The stage was fast and simple for much of the way, with mostly tracks and little off-road driving, the leading cars reaching around 150km/h before slowing for a twisty, technical section with some rocks towards the end.
French duo Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret in a four-wheel drive diesel Mini won their second special stage of the 2013 Dakar to increase their slim lead over the Qatari/Spanish combination of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz in a two-wheel drive petrol Buggy to 3min14 sec.
Villiers and Zitzewitz are 40 minutes in arrears but have opened up the gap to fourth-placed Leonid Novitskiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov (another Mini) to nearly five minutes.
Villiers said: “We got through the special stage well and conceded a surprisingly small amount of time to the diesel cars. They have a physical advantage at that kind of altitude.
“The second part of the stage was narrow and winding – rather like stages in the World Rally championship. Just one tough stage on Saturday and we’ll be having a very welcome rest day on Sunday.“
Zitzewitz added: “Today’s stage was very encouraging ahead of the next few stages. We looked good on this kind of ‘special’ and go into the coming WRC-style stages fully motivated. This will give us the opportunity to do well.“
Saturday’s stage will run from Salta to San Miguel de Tucuman in Argentina and cover a total of 849km – the longest stage of the first week of the race. The cars will first complete a 379km liaison section before tackling the day’s 470km special..
There will be two timed sections with a variety of scenery – canyons and cacti and the beautiful Argentinian landscape for 150km. During the second half of the timed section, which will take place in a region completely unknown to the Dakar drivers, the contrast will be apparent on the sandy and sometimes tricky tracks.
Wind and high temperatures which typically ravage the region could make life difficult. The rest day in San Miguel de Tucuman on Sunday will be well-deserved.