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Tough working week for Dakar

2014-01-11 18:57


WHERE'S THE BRIDGE: Argentine driver Orlando Terranova and co-driver Paulo Fiuza blast through a river crossing in their Mini during Stage 6 of the 2014 Dakar Rally between Tucuman ad Salta, Argentina, on January 10, 2014. Image: AFP

South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) completed the first week of the Dakar Rally in fourth place overall after finishing fourth on Friday’s special stage six between Tucuman and Salta in Argentina.

Team mates Leeroy Poulter, competing in his first Dakar, and Rob Howie are 29th overall after finishing 26th on Friday’s 424km stage, equivalent in length to a single round of the South African cross-country

Image gallery: 2014 Dakar - Stage 1 - 7

Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin (Mini) are the overall leaders in the general classification with a time of 22hr11min28 as the competitors take a well-earned rest day in Salta on Saturday before the rally resumes on Sunday with the last of the seven stages in Argentina.


Six stages will follow in Chile before the rally ends in Valparaiso on January 18.

For now, it’s a welcome respite from the hardships of the 9500km supertrek; a time to rest weary bodies and battered machines and prepare for the second week.

Second overall are Argentine Orlando Terranova and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza in a Mini(+30min30), followed by French team mates and defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret (+32min33). De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 40min54 in arrears but 46min41 ahead of fifth-placed Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz in yet another Mini.

Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk of Germany are sixth in an SMG Buggy, 1hr59min38 behind the leaders.

Five of the top six drivers are Dakar winners: Roma on a motorcycle in 2004, Peterhansel six times on a motorcycle between 1991 and 1998 and five times in a car since 2004 including the past two years, De Villiers in 2009, al-Attiyah in 2011 and Sainz in 2010.

Each is competing in the T1 class for Improved Cross-Country Vehicles. Roma is leading the four-wheel drive diesel class, De Villiers is first in the four-wheel drive petrol class and Sainz is the front-runner in the two-wheel drive petrol class.


De Villiers said: “We’re happy to be here at the end of the first week. It’s been one of the toughest Dakars since we came to South America in 2009, particularly in the last two days. We’ve had a few problems which otherwise might have seen us closer to the front but we’re in a good position to challenge for the podium in the second week.

“The car is working well now and this is what we need for what will be an even tougher second week, with some very long stages. Nani has a big lead but we’ve seen in the past six days how easily things can change.”

Team mate Poulter added: “This has been one of the toughest weeks of my entire motor racing career. Thank goodness Saturday’s a rest day! We’re just happy to have survived the first week and had some good stage results.

"We know the second half of the race is going to be even tougher but I’m a lot better-prepared than I was a week ago.”


Team manager Glyn Hall, another South African, said: “It’s been a tough and hectic week. Giniel and Dirk have had a very good run and we’re in a good position to challenge for a podium position in Valparaiso on January 18.

"Leeroy has been very impressive on debut. He's shown he has the pace to finish stages among the elite drivers such as Giniel. With a bit more luck he and Rob could have been in the top 10 but the Dakar comes with its own unique challenges and they are learning fast.

“Calling Saturday a rest day is a bit of a misnomer - it’s anything but for the technical team. We’ll be stripping down both cars and checking everything and replacing components where necessary. We still have another tough week of racing ahead before we can say we conquered the Dakar.”

Sunday’s stage seven will be a 763km mega-loop from Salta and back to Salta with a racing section of 533km that will test the competitors’ ability to adapt to changes of pace. Some top speeds will be recorded in the second part of the special stage after stony terrain at the beginning of the day.


The drivers’ road techniques will be tested at an average altitude of almost 3500m. Their day will end with a crossing of a vast salt flat extending more than 20km.

The stage will start at 6.45am (11.45am SA time) and the first car is due back at the Salta bivouac at 4pm (9pm SA time).

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