‘Invisible’ waypoint take drivers for a spin

2015-01-15 00:00

AN “invisible” ninth waypoint on ­Tuesday’s ninth Dakar stage saw riders and drivers milling around in thick ­fesh-fesh dust, some wasting over an hour looking for the signal.

SA leading driver Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz lost only 15 minutes and remain first in their class, but the delay may yet dash the 2009 winners’ hopes for another overall first place.

In the second Toyota Imperial Hilux, Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie had a lot of difficulty with waypoint 9.

“By the time we reached that point, the ground had been churned up a lot. It is also an area filled with fine fesh-fesh dust, and the crews ahead of us were milling around trying to find the waypoint. As a result we couldn’t see much, and it took us more than an hour to pin down the spot before we could move on,” said Poulter after the stage.

Due to the other crews also losing time in the thick dust, Poulter and Howie ­maintain their 18th position overall for yesterday’s start.

Imperial Toyota team manager Glynn Hall was philosophical about the time wasted.

“We’ve still got four stages to go, so there’s plenty of racing to come. While we — probably — can’t catch [leader] Nasser [Al-Attiyah] on outright pace, anything can happen on the Dakar, and it often does. So we’ll keep pushing as hard as we can and see which way the chips fall come Buenos Aires on Saturday.”

The other four South Africans still in the race are Nissan Prodakar team of ­Johan van Staden and Mark Lawrenson, lying 33rd overall in their Navara; ­solo-rider Albert Hintehaus, who is 50th on his KTM; and Team Rhider’s Willem Saaijman, who is 12th overall in the much reduced field of 21 quads.

Today’s race sees the racers compete in a more “relaxed” stage after yesterday’s barren, marathon 358 km special stage that took them into Argentina over the 4 970 m De l’Acay pass.

The riders and drivers again split on two routes today, following the scenic Ruta 40, with fast corners and plenty of jumps. The riders have the short end of the stick with another 351 km of racing ahead of them, while the drivers will race only 194 km, after driving sedately for 326 km to get to the racing stage.

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