SA stars running high in Dakar Rally

Brad Morgan

10 January 2013

South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, driving an Imperial Toyota Hilux, consolidated their third position in the Dakar Rally with a strong showing in Wednesday's 172-kilometre special stage.

The Broadlink KTM Rally Team of South Africans Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk continued to run at the upper end of the motorbike race, with both men finishing inside the top 25.

Stage victory

Nani Roma and Michel Perin, driving a Mini, won the relatively short stage between Arequipa and Arica, with overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret finishing second. Third place went to the Hummer of Robbie Gordon and Kellon Welch, but they lie only 36th in the overall standings after losing almost six hours on Tuesday.

In a particularly closely contested stage, De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz finished fourth, only one minutes and 41 seconds behind first-placed Roma and Perin.

Peterhansal has a lead of almost 10 minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah in the overall rankings, with De Villiers 33 minutes and 50 seconds down on the 10-time Dakar champion.

'Small problem'

De Villiers commented: "It was not a long stage but quite fast, twisty at the beginning. We had a small problem with the rear brakes – we lost a bit of rear brake, so we'll have to look at what the problem is tonight, but other than that it was a nice stage and beautiful along the beach."

Von Zitzewitz said: "Today was a short stage, not very hard on the car - almost a small rest day! We have a small problem with the rear brakes getting too hot, but the team is doing all they can to fix the problem.

"Today we could have done a bit better, but we lost time behind Guerlain Chicherit (SMG Buggy), who was not willing to let us through. Otherwise, a very good and enjoyable day for us."

Motorcyles

The motorcyclists took on a shorter stage than the cars, with it covering just 136 kilometres.

France's exceptional results continued when David Casteu, on a Yamaha, claimed the stage win in a time of one hour, 39 minutes and 42 seconds. Olivier Pain, also on a Yamaha, took second, just over a minute later, with Spain's Juan Pedrero, on a KTM, in third.

Race rookie Riaan van Niekerk crossed the line in 19th place, almost eight-and-a-half minutes behind the leader, while Darryl Curtis picked up 24th place after finishing exactly three minutes after his Broadlink KTM Rally Team team-mate.

Pain is a minute and 15 seconds up on Casteu at the top of the overall rankings. Curtis occupies 15th place, 29 minutes and 15 seconds off the lead, while Van Niekerk is in 17th spot, just over two minutes behind Curtis.

'The fesh fesh is like a magnet'

"It didn't go very well," reckoned Curtis. "The fesh fesh is like a magnet to me. I crashed again at the beginning of the morning in the fesh fesh. It was a small crash, but, again, that stuff goes everywhere and makes everything uncomfortable, it gets in your goggles and everything else.

"A little while later my stand spring broke. I had to try and make a plan with cable ties to tie it up and that didn't work.

Looking ahead, he said: "Tomorrow's going to be a big test for us. It's the longest special test, 455 kilometres, and there's going to be a mixture of dunes, and again a lot of fesh fesh, which is the stuff that is really very difficult to ride [in]."

'Spirits are high'

On an optimistic note, Curtis added: "The spirits are high. We're both quite comfortable at the moment and are taking it day by day.

"With a bit of luck, we're going to hold our positions or improve them by the time we get to Santiago on the 20th."

The 2013 Dakar Rally finishes in Santiago, Chile, after covering a distance of 8 400 kilometres in 15 days.

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