SA's De Villiers holds third spot
Author: PETER BURROUGHES
CALAMA, Chile - The longest special stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally so far and the first in Chile after five days in Peru was expected to see a shake-up among the front runners.
A total of 767km, including 454km of special stage racing, was in store for the 151 bikes, 122 cars, 68 trucks and 31 quads *still in the race.
AL-ATTIYAH GAINS ON PETERHANSEL
As it turned out there was no change in the order of the first four in the general classification of cars, with South African Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) retaining third position behind 2012 champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France (Mini) and Qatar’s 2011 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (Buggy).
Al-Attiyah has been gaining on race favourite Peterhansel as the Dakar approaches the rest day in Tucuman, Argentina, 5300km into the 8500km marathon.
Al-Attiyah won his third special stage in four days and closed the gap to 10-times Dakar winner Peterhansel to just 1min18. Peterhansel was second in Stage 6 with Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch (Hummer) in third.
The gap to De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz has grown to 42min31 after the 2009 champions lost around 12min on special Stage 6 between Arica in Peru and Calama in Chile.
They were bogged down in soft sand as they stopped to avoid the stranded Mini of Nani Roma and co-driver Michel Perin, who had driven into a deep hole.
Peterhansel was more fortunate as his team mate waving him away to avoid the sand trap.
'IT'S NOT ABOUT WINNING STAGES'
De Villiers said: “It was a frustrating incident and happened after we had been stuck behind Roma in his dust for some kilometres.
"We pushed hard afterwards to make up some of the lost time and are happy to have kept our third place in the race. There is still a long way to go.
"We will continue to race our race and do our best. It’s not about winning stages (Peterhansel has only won one), but all about maintaining a good pace each day and finishing without any major delay.”
Stage 7 sees competitors take on a 806km challenge from Calama in Chile to Salta in Argentina. The ascent of the Andes Mountains will be in the early hours of January 11. Drivers and riders will ride in convoy for a 534km liaison stage finishing at an altitude of 4975m above sea level, at the top of Argentina’s highest mountain pass.
*183 bikes, 153 cars, 75 trucks and 38 quads set out from the start in Lima, Peru on January 5 2013.
Wheels24 will be following the 'Dakar' rally throughout the race. Keep up with things on our Dakar Rally section.
Other Stories in Dakar...
The 9500km haul through Argentina and Chile was the longest, highest and toughest Dakar yet. Among the survivors were Toyota South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, Dirk von Zitzewitz, Leeroy Poulter, Rob Howie and privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr.
Giniel de Villiers was not the only South African to make waves at the 2014 Dakar, truck driver Albert Geel was co-driver in the fastest truck running in the grueling rally.