POULTER PENALTY: Toyota SA's Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Rob Howie missed a waypoint on Friday (Jan 9) on Dakar Stage 6 so were penalised 40 minutes, dropping down to 21st overall. Image: Toyota SA / Marc Bow
IQUIQUE, Chile - Stage 6 of the Dakar 2015 was raced between the Pacific coastal towns of Antofagasta and Iquique and saw Toyota SA’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzetwitz (#303) post the second-fastest stage time in their Toyota Imperial Hilux.
The pair finished 37sec behind stage winner and overall race leader Nasser al-Attiyah in a Mini after 255km of cross-country racing.
De Villiers said at the bivouac near Iquique: "We pushed quite hard today and were right on Nasser's pace. The Hilux ran absolutely perfectly and we were clearly just as fast as the Minis."
LESS AIR, LESS SPEED
The day also started well for Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (#327) in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux. They posted the 11th and 12th-fastest times past most of the checkpoints on the route but lost time in the dunes near the end of the stage.
They were forced to let some air out of their tyres so couldn't push quite as hard as they wanted towards the end.
Poulter said: "There was no problem with our overall pace. We were matching the top stage times until things went wrong for us in the dunes and we missed a waypoint – that means a penalty of 40 minutes, plus the time we spent looking for the waypoint.
“It is a crushing blow but we will continue to push when we can and be there to support Giniel and Dirk if needed."
'LOTS TO COME'
The penalty pushed Poulter and Howie down to 21st overall but they still have one joker - a possible opportunity to improve their road position - to play. This will be applied for the start of Stage 7 and, if all goes to plan, they will remain in the top group on the road despite dropping down in the overall standings.
Team principal Glyn Hall said at the Friday night bivouac: "Of course it is disappointing that Leeroy and Rob have been penalised for missing a waypoint but at the same time we are very pleased with Giniel and Dirk's performance.
“And don't forget… there's still a lot of racing to come, starting with the two marathon stages."
These require teams to drive away from the bivouac and service crews for one stage and return on the next - with no service support along the way.
Stages 7 and 8 will be run on consecutive days and the teams will reach 4000m in the mountains as they battle their way from Iquique to the famous salt flats of Uyuni. After overnighting in Bolivia they will take a different route back to Iquique for a descent on the famous dune behind the bivouac.
NO SERVICE CREWS
"No service crews are allowed on the route," Hall explained, “so if anything breaks on a car only the crew is allowed to fix it. As such we send along a full spares package for each car, which will add some weight, but it's necessary.
“We also have a strategy in place to get new tyres to Giniel and Dirk's car for the return stage but it is heart-in-the-throat stuff as we are powerless to help if anything should happen.
“Still, the cars haven't had any significant problems so far, so there is no reason to expect trouble."
After returning from Bolivia the crews will take a breather with a rest day before racing resumes on January 13 with a final Chilean stage from Iquique to Calama before returning to Argentina for the final days of Dakar 2015.
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