De Villiers up to third after crossing Dakar’s virgin dunes

2014-01-17 00:00

Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz last night (SA time) crossed the finishing line in third place, pushing Stéphane Peterhansel’s Mini into fourth place.

The SA team posted the third fastest time of the day in their Hilux, just 12 minutes behind the leading turbo Mini.

Yesterday’s stage 11 was the toughest yet in the Dakar rally, with 622 km of non-stop racing that ranged from lots of river crossings to getting lost in the 130 km area across the famous dunes of Copiapo. Shown here is front runner Marc Coma in the dunes, looking set to win again this year.

Last night (SA time) the first cars were expected at the finish line after six hours of hard racing and the fastest bikers will get home after being in the saddle for over seven hours. All the racers had to find their own way across the desert, which made stage 11 both a mental and physical challenge.

In his made-in-KZN Ford Ranger Lucio Alvarez yesterday started in ninth position after he used his sand-mastery on Wednesday’s desert stage to climb from 35th to 28th.

Team manager in the Ford camp Scott Abraham said that stage 11 ‘would be a big test for everybody and it could have a nasty sting in the tail’. ‘There are 130 km of dunes in the middle and they are virgin dunes for everybody, so there could be big changes and reshuffles throughout the field [today],’ he predicted. In their Hilux SA privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr started 21st, with SA KTM riders Riaan van Niekerk lining up in 11th and Brett Cummings in the 30th spot.

The only SA truck racer, Johannes Geel, is co-driver in a Mercedes and his team seems content to follow in the tailenders for a finish.

PHOTO: Getty Images

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