17 January 2011
South African driver Giniel de Villiers finished second in the 2011 Dakar Rally Argentina Chile on the weekend, sandwiched between his Volkswagen team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz.
It was a third Dakar victory in succession for Volkswagen and the most dominant performance yet by the team’s diesel-engined Race Touareg. In total, Volkswagen won 12 of the 13 stages.
Al-Attityah, thanks to some strong performances in the latter stages of the race and some bad luck on the part of defending champion Sainz, took a comfortable victory, finishing 49 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of De Villiers. Sainz was one hour 20 minutes and 38 seconds off the pace.
There was some comfort for Sainz, who lost over an hour on the third last stage when he hit a hole and damaged his front suspension. He won seven stages, including the first two and the last two.
Al-Attiyah, second in 2010, won four stages and De Villiers, the winner of the 2009 Dakar, won one to take his all-time number of Dakar stage victories to 13.
Fourth overall and one hour, 33 minutes and 48 seconds off the pace was after a testing 9 000 kilometres through Argentina and Chile and 5 000 kilometres of special stage rallying was France’s Stephane Peterhansel in a BMW X3, which made it four Dakar winners in the top four finishers.
The three-times Dakar winner (he last won in a Mitsubishi in 2007) took stage five.
American Mark Miller and his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford finished sixth overall in the fourth factory Race Touareg, 41 minutes and 20 seconds behind the BMW X3 of Polish rally champion Krzysztof Holowczyc.
They lost almost an hour when their car rolled on stage two and thereafter performed the role of backup to their team-mates, including stopping to repair Sainz’s front suspension on stage 11.
“As you would expect from the Dakar, this has been a really tough rally, long and tiring,” said De Villiers.
“My co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz and I are very happy to have finished second after our disappointing result last year when we were seventh after losing over two hours with electrical problems on the third stage.
“Our strategy throughout the 13 days of racing was to push as hard as we could without taking any unnecessary risks.
“The Dakar demands great respect and we are proud to have made it on to the podium for the third time in five years.
“This is a great result for Volkswagen, who once again have proved they are the best team. Congratulations to Nasser on a brilliant race.”
Pitchford, who was second with Miller behind De Villiers in 2009 and third last year, was disappointed to not make it into the top three for a third year in a row.
“The Dakar is not regarded as the world’s toughest off road race for nothing,” said the former South African off road co-driver champion.
“To finish is an achievement. We’re very proud to have been part of the best team in the race, for the third year in succession, and although we lost any chance of a good result after our roll on stage two we enjoyed our Dakar and were pleased to be able to help Carlos when he crashed his car.”
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