|SA-Dakar Rally: Toyota Hilux "Underdogs" back in fourth place at the Dakar.|
The underdog has shown its teeth once again: Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany) started from fourth place overall when the Rally Dakar moves into uncharted terrain in Peru today. The duo finished third fastest on the final stage in Chile, which took the toughest motorsport marathon in the world north from Iquique to Arica.
The rank outsiders continued their reliable but consistently impressive drive, astutely avoiding damaging their privately run Imperial Toyota Hilux on tricky terrain that constantly threatened to destroy the competitors' material.
But not only this: After yesterday´s stage, all competing Toyota Hilux from South Africa / Overdrive are inside the overall Top 10. The Argentinian duo Alvarez / Graue are on 7th position with 03:24:58 hours to leader Peterhansel, the South African team Vos / Howie is 10th with 04:21:54 hours to the leader.
Lucio Alvarez pushed to the point where something had to give and when it became too much, he lost control of the Hilux and rolled it 5 times. Fortunately both driver and co-driver are unscathed an the Hilux kept running all the way back to the service park where it will be repaired.
After 219 of the 377 timed kilometres wednesday, the drivers were faced with dunes and sandy routes, before returning to gravel for the final section towards the border between Chile and Peru. Right at the start of the stage, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz immediately benefited from the misfortune of their rival Krzysztof Holowczyz in the highly-fancied X-raid Mini, who damaged his steering, allowing the South African/German pairing to move into fourth place overall.
"An extremely tiring stage, on which you really had to be alert" said Giniel de Villiers. "You had to take care at the beginning because of all the stones, and there was fesh-fesh sand everywhere. Crossing the dunes was not exactly easy either, as it was hard to make out the crests of the dunes in that light. Dirk did a perfect job of navigating today - all in all, we can be very happy."
Von Zitzewitz commented: "That was far and away the most challenging stage of the Dakar so far. There was a lot of sand and many dunes for about 20 kilometres. Navigating was also extremely difficult today, and you had to use your imagination now and then to find the right route. That is why some of our rivals lost their way today. We were able to make up time, even though we still have less performance and torque than the favourites."
The "underdogs" from the Imperial Toyota team have not dropped outside the top five since the Rally Dakar began - a result they could hardly have hoped for, even in their wildest dreams. To achieve this shock result under their own steam, de Villiers/von Zitzewitz must now overcome four more stages in uncharted territory for the Dakar, making the final push a real test for man and machine.
2012/01/12 | 12:34 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE