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2014 last-stage Dakar honours to SA

2014-01-19 12:42

DOWNHILL GIVES GINIEL A TOUCH OF UPHILL: Toyota's Giniel De Villiers and co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz do a little cliff-diving on Stage 11 of the 2014 Dakar Rally - the stuff that took them to fourth on Saturday (Jan 18). Image: AFP

PETER BURROUGHES

VALPARAISO, Chile - Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) won the 13th and final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally in South America on Saturday.

They were officially classified fourth overall at the finish in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso after a marathon race through Argentina and Chile that started in Rosario on January 5 and covered a total distance of 9500km.

The 2009 champions won the T1.1 class for petrol-powered 4x4 improved cross country vehicles for the third year in succession after their third and second place finishes in 2012 and 2013 in proudly South African Hilux 4x4s.

FOUR HILUXES IN TOP 25

Team mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie improved their overnight position of 36th to take 12th place on the 157km final special stage between La Serena and Valparaiso and complete Poulter’s first Dakar Rally in a creditable 33rd overall.

Four other Hilux 4x4’s with South African pedigrees finished in the top 25. The Belgian Overdrive Team’s Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor of Poland were seventh, compatriots Adam Malysz and Rafal Marton came in 13th, Aidyn Rakhambayev and Vladimir Demyanenko of Kazakstan were 17th and South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr claimed an impressive 25th place on their Dakar debut in the ex-De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz Hilux that finished second in the 2013 Dakar.

The Overdrive Toyotas were second, third and fifth in the T1.1 class and Rundle and Poulter were eighth and 13th respectively.

Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin (Mini) won the race by 5min38 from team mates and defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France and 56min52 ahead of former champions and team mates Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz.

De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were 1hr19min07 behind the winners and 8min37 in front of Argentine Orlando Terranova and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza (Mini).

'WE TRIED OUR BEST'

De Villiers said later: "It’s always good to finish this race. It’s the longest and toughest motor race in the world and this year’s version was the hardest we have experienced.
 
“I’m disappointed not to be on the podium again but we must be realistic. We tried our best but we were just not able to match the performance of the Minis, especially at the high altitude to which much of the route took us. We lost too much time in the beginning with our hydraulic problems. In a race as difficult as this year’s, it’s impossible to claw back the time lost.

“I want to thank my team for their outstanding work. We showed that the Hilux is reliable and we will go back to South Africa to work on boosting our vehicle’s performance even more and do better next year.”  

Team manager Glyn Hall added: “Under the circumstances we must be pleased to have brought both cars home and to have Giniel and Dirk in the first four. They need to look at the rules – we’re not on the same page in terms of power thanks to having the smallest air restrictor of the top contenders.

“Winning the last stage was good - it brought Giniel’s total to 14 – and is a nice way to end what has been a very challenging two weeks. Leeroy showed he has the pace to be a future contender and will benefit greatly from the experience he has gained in what was the toughest Dakar since the race moved from Africa to South America five years earlier.

'TOUGH LEARNING EXPERIENCE'

Poulter said: “Just a few nights ago we were stuck in the desert waiting for our assistance truck. We thought our race was over. We only got back to the bivouac at 2am and then had to start the next stage at seven.

“Since then we’ve been starting well back in the field and having to contend with the dust of slower cars and trucks. It’s been a very tough learning experience but now I have a much better idea of what this race is all about and will come back next year much better prepared.”
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