SOUTH Africa’s Dakar 2009 winners, Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, got oh-so-close to a stage win in their Toyota Imperial Hilux in Stage 4 on Wednesday when the rally bared its famous teeth at them. Stage 4 was 868 kilometres long. De Villiers was lying second at the 470 kilometre mark when they were forced to stop to fix their power steering and a slow puncture. They lost some 14 minutes before they were able to continue. “It’s very disappointing,” admitted De Villiers. “We had a real chance of winning the special stage.” Toyota’s Dakar rookies Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Rob Howie in the second Hilux also felt the Dakar’s famous bite. “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 dampers and we were forced to stop.” After the support truck arrived three hours later, they raced on without further problems. In the Ford camp, the team had worked through the night to repair the damaged suspension on the only made-in-KZN Ranger still in the Dakar. With drivers Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue raring to go, a faulty water temperature sensor then cut out the accelerator, much to the frustration of team manager Neil Woolridge, who said the Dakar had exposed issues that they have never encountered before with the Ranger. Finding and fixing that glitch cost them 32 minutes, which added a full hour penalty to their overall time. But once they got their Ranger through the thick dust thrown up by the racing trucks, Alvarez and Graue raced like champions to finish 16th — just under 45 minutes behind stage winners Carlos Sainz/Timo Gottschalk (SMG Buggy). Bikes Broadlink KTM’s Darryl Curtis reported the 2014 Dakar had so far eliminated more than 80 riders, but South Africans Riaan van Niekerk and Brett Cummins have made it through. On Tuesday, at least 20 riders got lost and slept in the mountains. During Wednesday’s fourth stage Van Niekerk, who had been in the top 20, joined the ranks of the lost, losing more than one hour, 30 minutes. “I have never been so lost in my life” said Van Niekerk, who finished in 69th position, two hours down on the stage winner. In the privateers’ Moto Class, South African Brett Cummings is currently lying in second place, but the South African has already won the riders’ respect as the ultimate sportsman. Despite racing in the self-sufficient class, which he described as the “real true, original Dakar”, Cummings has so far stopped to help Zambian Dave Reeves, who had crashed out; and swopped a tyre for brake pads with Van Niekerk on the bikers’ nightmare that was Tuesday’s stage 2. Trucks By yesterday afternoon, only two of the three South Africans in the racing trucks were still in contention. In truck number 569 co-driver Sean Smith-Bailie is lying second-last among the 60 racing trucks in a MAN; with co-driver Johannes Geel at 51st in a Mercedes. Dutch driver Gerard de Rooy stayed in the lead yesterday, but the Tatra trucks of the Russians have now moved into second and third places, as last year’s truck winner Eduard Nikolaev moved up the ranks behind. • Tonight’s stage 5 (South African time) covers 912 km, with 527 km of racing. The special stage will be mostly sand with very high temperatures expected as the competitors tackle off-track sections all day.