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Steering, shocks take toll on Hiluxes

2014-01-09 07:45

GETTING DOWN TO IT: Toyota tech staff on the 2014 Dakar had to work on power-steering and shock-absorber problems after a disappointing Stage 4 on January 8. Above is the De Villiers car that had steering problems. Image: MARC BOW

CHILECITO, Argentina - Seventh place on Wednesday’s fourth special stage on the Dakar Rally between San Juan and Chilecito in Argentina saw 2009 winners Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) maintain sixth place overall.

It might, however, have been a very different story had they not again experienced power-steering problems which robbed them of a possible stage win.

It was the longest stage of the race so far – 868km in all with a racing section of 657km. They were lying second at the 470km mark when they were forced to stop to check the power steering. They also realised they had a slow puncture and the delays cost them 14 minutes.


“It’s very disappointing,” admitted De Villiers. “We had a real chance of winning the special. Apart from the steering issue, the Hilux’s performance is perfect. We can’t afford to keep losing time like this so  will have to put in a big effort on Thursday (Jan 9) and in the days ahead to reduce the gap to the leaders.”

The Dakar is not regarded as the world’s toughest motor racing challenge for nothing. When you think you’ve got things under control the rally bites back!  The first four days of the 2014 edition have seen even the most experienced competitors rise and fall on the leader board.

For Dakar rookie Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Rob Howie in the second South African Hilux it was a bad day after three good days which saw them in 10th overall after finishing an excellent third on Tuesday’s special stage.

Damaged shock-absorbers stranded them only 50km into the special stage; it took three hours for the assistance truck to get them going again.

“We were lying second and were chasing Nani Roma when we hit a step-up at speed on a long straight section. The impact broke the right rear shocks and we were forced to stop. The T4 truck arrived, we replaced the shocks, and had no further problems.”


They have dropped from 10th to 29th overall after being classified 59th on the stage, 3hr38min35 behind stage winners Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk in an SMG Buggy. Defending champions Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France were second in a Mini ahead of team mates Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar and Lucas Cruz of Spain.

Sainz and Gottschalk now lead overall by 2min06 from Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (Mini). Al-Attiyah and Cruz are third, another 4min52 back. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 39min10 behind the leaders but Poulter and Howie have a daunting deficit of 4hr11min43.
Thursday’s Stage 5 from Chilecito to Tucuman will be the longest of the rally at 912km, with 385km of liaison and 527km of racing. The special stage will be mostly sand with high temperatures expected as the competitors tackle off-track sections all day.

Candidates for the final podium have been whittled down to a select few.

The stage will get under way at 6.03 am (11.03 SA time) and the first car is expected to reach the finish at 6.05pm (11.05pm SA time)

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