De Villiers acknowleged as Dakar ends in a Mini festival

2014-01-20 00:00

THE toughest Dakar to date ended on Saturday with fewer than half of the bikes, quads, cars and trucks that entered making it over the finish line.

As expected, it was a Mini festival, with five of the 11 Minis finishing in the top six. Dakar’s website praised South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota Hilux as being the only driver who was able to take the fight to the turbo-charged 4x2 Minis until the very end.

De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz yesterday posted the best time over the last stage 13 and won their class in the petrol-powered 4x4 improved cross-country vehicles for the third year in succession.

“I’m a bit disappointed not to be on the podium,” De Villiers told Dakar radio. “But we’ve got to be realistic, we weren’t as good as the Minis this year, especially at high altitude, and to make matters worse we lost too much time at the beginning due to problems with our power steering. In a race as difficult as this year’s, it’s impossible to claw back the time lost at the beginning, but I want to thank my team nevertheless for their outstanding work to solve the problem.”

Team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie completed Poulter’s first Dakar in a creditable 33rd place overall. In De Villiers old Hilux, South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) ended their Dakar in a creditable 25th place overall. They were eighth in the T1.1 class for petrol-powered 4x4 improved cross-country vehicles.

The other surprise in the top 10 was GWM’s Haval, which Portugal’s Carlos Sousa consistently raced to get his sixth Dakar class win and the first for the Chinese manufacturer.

In their KZN-built Ford Ranger, Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue finished 22nd. Team manager Neil Woolridge said he was very proud of the team’s recovery after Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst crashed out on the second day of the rally. “A week and a half ago the guys were down and out, but everyone pulled together and worked as a team to get us to the end.”

The 2014 edition of the Dakar will, however, go down in the books with an asterisk, as overall winner Nani Roma got the win on a platter under controversial team orders.

On the bikes, no one could touch Spaniard Marc Coma, who won his fourth Dakar title for KTM, with Jordi Viladoms taking second and Frenchman Olivier Pain third after fending off the late Cyril Despres.

South Africa’s Riaan van Niekerk (Broadlink KTM) ended 12th, less than six minutes after Coma. Van Niekerk at one stage set the fastest pace. In the privateer class Brett Cummins also posted a top 10.

The quad podium was topped by Chile’s Ignacio Casale (26) who used the experience he gained in both the Dakar trucks and cars to ride like a pro on the lonely, self-navigation desert sections.

The trucks was where this year’s real racing took place. After stage 11 Dutch champion Gerard de Rooy said from his Iveco truck the Russian and Czech drivers were taking too many risks and implied he would just have to drive carefully to pass by their stranded Kamaz and Tatra trucks. At the end, a car blocked the leading Russian and team-mate Andrey Karginov was able to hold on to his lead over De Rooy by a hair’s breadth.

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