SA third still triumph on Dakar
TOYOTA HOLDS SA FLAG HIGH IN LIMA: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz on the No. 301 Toyota Hilux that finished third in the 2012 Dakar Rally.
Author: Danie van Jaarsveld
LIMA, Peru - South Africa's Team Imperial Toyota ended their maiden foray into the ultimate test of vehicle endurance with third place in the 2012 Dakar Rally for Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in the number 301 Hilux.
Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the number 313 sister car finished 11th and the Overdrive-entered South African Hilux of Lucio Alvarez and Andy Graue finished sixth in Lima after battling from Argentina on the Atlantic coast, through Chile and down to the shores of the Pacific in Peru.
PAUSE ON THE PODIUM
Sunday's stage was a last, 26km run through the haunting desolation of the Atacama desert before running towards and into Lima on a highway lined with thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic spectators. In Lima, crews were routed to the city square where they had the opportunity to drive on to and stop on a raised podium in front of their fans, a festive celebration of endurance and of the survivors.
The Imperial Toyota achievements are remarkable in their own right, without any qualification, and Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz proved they are a class act, true champions with their podium position.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Hallspeed Hiluxes are built for the South African Off-Road National championship and their engines are restricted in accordance to regulations accepted internationally, including for the Dakar as from 2013.
TEAM PHOTO: The South African Toyota crews and techies in Lima's city square after Stage 15 of the 2012 Dakar Rally.
Of the many cars that adhered to this future Dakar specification, referred to as class T1.5 in the paddock, the South Africans finished 1, 2 and 3 - a most encouraging result.
The result achieved by the South African Toyota Hiluxes would have pleased any team on its first attempt, regardless of the available resources and technical knowhow. For this team to have done so in a only few months with a comparatively modest budget is absolutely amazing, a feat that should make every South African proud.
The team was celebrating on Sunday night before boarding the long flights home on Monday. They will arrive on SAA at OR Tambo airport on Tuesday, January 17 at 3.30pm.
Go see them - they deserve a heroes' welcome for flying the South African flag.