Solid South African showing at Dakar Rally

20 January 2014

South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-pilot Dirk von Zitzewitz, driving a Toyota Hilux, claimed victory on the 14th and final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally on Saturday to end the gruelling 13-stage race in fourth place overall.

The race started in Argentina and finished in Chile, while the motorcyclists and quad bike riders also ventured into Bolivia.

The car category was dominated by Mini, which finished 1-2-3, with Nani Roma and Michel Perin taking the title ahead of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret, with Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz in third.

Marc Coma, on a KTM, dominated the motorbikes category, winning the race by almost two hours over fellow KTM rider Jordi Viladoms and Yamaha’s Olivier Pain.

Mini challenge

De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz held off four Minis on the final stage to secure the win in an hour, 57 minutes and seven seconds, just 23 seconds of Poland’s Krzyztof Holowczyc and Russia’s Konstantin Zhiltsov.

Leeroy Poulter and Duncan Howie, in their first Dakar Rally, came home seven minutes and 41 seconds behind their team mates, De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz, to finish in 12th place on the stage and in 33rd place overall.

Privateers

South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, both Dakar rookies like Poulter, finished 18th in De Villiers’ previous Toyota Hilux, just less than 15 minutes behind the 2009 champion, which meant they completed the race in a very creditable 25th place overall.

The Toyota team was solid, probably without achieving the heights it was seeking, while the South African-built and run Team Ford Ranger, in Team Ford Racing’s first crack at the Dakar, had some growing pains, with one of their two vehicles failing to finish.

Nonetheless, Argentinia’s Lucio Alvarez and Bernardo Graue, in one of the Rangers, placed 23rd on the final stage to hold onto their 22nd position overall in the final standings.

Motorbikes

In the motorbike category, Brett Cummings, on a KTM, finished the final stage in 35th place to place 28th overall, while Riaan van Niekerk came home in 75th place on the final stage.

That result was very misleading as Van Niekerk, recognising that he had a lead of more than an hour over the man behind him, waited for race leader and fellow KTM rider Marc Coma, who started 38 minutes after the South African, to ride with the Spanish star and ensure he finished.

In the end, Van Niekerk finished in 12th place overall and won the Super Production class for a second year in succession. He was also the first non-factory rider to finish.