Much achieved, nothing won – Villiers/Zitzewitz Interview
Tucumán, 13 January 2013 Sporting review by the rank outsiders: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz look back on their successful first week on the 2013 Dakar Rally. Third place overall in their “made in South Africa” Toyota Hilux during the event’s only Rest Day – despite some highly rated opponents. The underdogs could well spring a major upset. In this concise interview “Ginny” and “Schnietz” – as the two friends refer to each other – explain why much has been achieved, but nothing has (yet) been won.
3 Questions for Giniel de Villiers
Giniel, can you remember when last you lay around 45 minutes adrift of the leaders in third place overall – before the stages around La Rioja and Fiambalá?
“Oh yes, that was in 2009. And a few days later we took the lead and went on to win the ‘Dakar’. That proves that anything is possible on the Dakar Rally. Anything can happen. But that naturally also applies to us, so we need to concentrate on every second to make it count. One simply cannot afford to make big mistakes.”
Did you expect to lay third after day four, then successfully defend the place? Put differently: What have been the big surprises for you on this Dakar?
“To be honest: Apart from our early top placing there have been no major surprises. Stéphane Peterhansel in the X-raid Mini is leading and playing the role of favourite perfectly – as expected. The buggies, particularly the one driven by Nasser Al-Attiyah, are as strong as we expected as the rules really favour them. The only surprise is that all the favourites have made mistakes and lost time. Some more than others. That is the reason we are where we are.”
You and Dirk, you are Mr and Mr Reliable, and have worked away in a cool, calm, collected and calculating manner, some would even say in true Three-O-One style. How do you see yourselves rewarded by the finish of this Dakar?
“It’s too early to make predictions. This applies equally one kilometre before the finish of the Dakar. Expect the unexpected – there is certainly truth in that old Dakar maxim, as we have discovered all too often. This time we have achieved a lot and are proud of our third place. But we have not won anything yet. Some long and tough days still lay ahead, plus inhospitable terrain that needs to be tamed. I believe, though, that we are well prepared.”
3 Questions for Dirk von Zitzewitz
Dirk, when you compare Giniel, Version 2013 with Giniel, Version 2009 – what similarities do you see; what differences?
“”Giniel possesses enormous inner peace, and sets himself realistic targets. He has always been like that, and I appreciate that. We were able to win the 2009 Dakar due to these characteristics. However, Ginny is also extremely ambitious and has developed enormously since then. For example, he has contested sprint rallies in South Africa in order to improve himself on WRC-type stages. That could make a big difference on the upcoming stages.”
On Stage 2 you were one of only two top co-drivers to quickly find the right route; on the next stage you lost 20 minutes after making the wrong decision in a fraction of a second. What is like to know that a co-driver cannot win, but could lose everything?
“Such mistakes worry me enormously. Days after the error I am still extremely annoyed with myself that we lost so much time there. While it has not made any difference to our overall position, we could have been pressuring the leaders. But that is a co-driver’s fate: Do the job perfectly, and it’s considered normal; make a minor mistake, and you’re a dunce. It is a question of how you handle it. I can assure you: The pressure does not affect me. On the contrary, it provides pure motivation.”
A lot of Peru, a bit of Chile and a little Argentina – how do you rate the difficulty of the Dakar after a week? What are your expectations for Week 2?
“The opening stages were significantly tougher than expected. But we believe the real test is still to come. The Dakar going was tough, but probably not the toughest of all times. But it is these enormous challenges that lead one to contest the Dakar Rally. The legendary stages such as those around La Rioja and in the Fiambalá region lie ahead. We are really looking forward to them.”
Interim result: Overall classification, Dakar Rest Day
01. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 18:31.04 Std.
02. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (Q/E), Buggy, 18:34.18 Std.
03. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Toyota, 19:15.07 Std.
04. Leonid Novitzkiy/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS), Mini, 19:19.58 Std.
05. Guerlain Chicherit/Jean-Pierre Garcin (F/F), Buggy, 19:35.54 Std.
06. Ronan Chabot/Gilles Pillot (F/F), Buggy, 20:05.55 Std.
07. Joan “Nani” Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 20:09.31 Std.
08. Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (RA/P), BMW, 20:29.29 Std.
09. Bernard Errandonea/Arnaud Debron (AND/F), Buggy, 20:33.32 Std.
10. Carlos Sousa/Miguel Ramlho (P/P), Great Wall, 20:38.33 Std.
Three-O-One fast facts: Did you know that …
… on the link sections Dirk von Zitzewitz decides on the choice of music piped through the intercom system via an MP3 player. However, his driver has one stipulation: That Johnny Cash songs be on the playlist.
… Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz converse in English in the cockpit – despite it being a foreign language to both – but fall back on Afrikaans or German should the need arise? The instructions “left” and “right” – said “links” and “rechts” respectively – are virtually identical in either language.
… Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz have shared marathon rally cockpits since 2006? After de Villiers finished second on the 2006 Dakar Rally with Tina Thörner in a Volkswagen Race Touareg, they formed a duo, and have to date scored ten podiums, five of which were victories. Their most important win: The 2009 Dakar.
… last year de Villiers/von Zitzewitz spent almost 150 days together, and prepared for the 2011 Dakar by undertaking mountain bike tours and stringent fitness programmes in South Africa?
… both are real fun people? One of Giniel de Villiers’s favourite sayings is “Like is too short to drink cheap wine.” By contrast, Dirk von Zitzewitz is a vintage whisky connoisseur.
… Dirk von Zitzewitz won the German Enduro Masters title fifteen times on a motorcycle?
… Dirk von Zitzewitz grew up in Karlshof, Ostholstein, and still lives there with wife Sabine and Peanuts, the family dog?
Coming up: Preview Stage 09
(Link section: 176 km, Stage: 226 km, Link section: 127 km, Stage: 240 km, Link section: 83 km)
The longest stage passes through WRC territory on its way to Córdoba: The ninth stage is very similar to that scheduled for the eighth day: torturous roads combined with fast winding sections. Once again the weather is expected to play a major role. Stormy weather as per 2011 could turn the stage into a mud bath; dry weather would see drivers and fans rewarded with a thrilling, high-speed race. While the drivers will be stretched to the limit, the co-drivers will have the easier task. But: On the Dakar one can never be sure of anything.
Three-O-One, in the driving seat: Giniel de Villiers
If awards were given out for versatility in motorsport, Giniel de Villiers would be a hot favourite to pick up the special prize for lifetime achievement. The likeable, down-to-earth racing driver from Stellenbosch in South Africa won five national touring car titles in South Africa, defeating his subsequent Team Principal in the Volkswagen works team Kris Nissen and other top European stars on the way, before switching to marathon rallying. Giniel de Villiers describes himself as an “outdoorsy person”, who loves being in the fresh air. Whether on a jet ski or a mountain bike, de Villiers is always looking for action. However, in both his sporting and private lives, intelligent discretion is one of the real hallmarks of “Ginny”. As such, his second career away from tarmacked roads and permanent racetracks has also been a distinguished one: together with his co-driver at the time, Tina Thörner (S), he finished second at the 2006 Rally Dakar with Volkswagen – a milestone, as this was at the time the highest place ever achieved by a pair in a diesel-powered vehicle. His big breakthrough came when the Rally Dakar made its debut outside of the Black Continent in 2009: with co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz at his side, the pair achieved a historic success: the first victory by an African, the first in a diesel car, and the first ever win in South America.
Three-O-One, calling the shots: Dirk von Zitzewitz
Dirk von Zitzewitz has literally been at home in the navigator’s seat since he took his first breath: the German was born in precisely the spot, in which he has enjoyed his greatest sporting success: in the passenger seat. The co-driver from Ostholstein is regarded as one of the best in his profession. In 2009, he and his driver Giniel de Villiers won the first Dakar ever to be held in South America. New territory? For Dirk von Zitzewitz, the terrain away from tarmacked roads is the perfect place to demonstrate his natural, instinctive talent for finding the right way. His success and reputation are no fluke: even as a teenager, Zitzewitz used to play ‘Dakar’ with a friend and a rickety old moped. Back then, the event was still establishing itself and was yet to develop the international prestige it enjoys today. Despite this, it still cast a spell on the off-road enthusiast from north Germany. Dirk von Zitzewitz won the German Enduro Championship title on 15 occasions, before going on to compete in three Dakars on a motorbike. As a co-driver to a number of different drivers, he has competed in the mother of all desert rallies every year since 2002. In 2012 Zitzewitz came full circle: it was ten years since he made his first appearance in a car – again a privately run Toyota. In 2013 the De-Villiers-von-Zitzewitz-Toyota combination enters the next round. In the meantime, he has achieved great success: this is reflected in ten podiums – five of which were victories – 33 stage wins and 31 days leading events in a car. As such, Dirk von Zitzewitz is already one of the most successful co-drivers of all time on the marathon rally scene.
“Dakar” on TV
Sunday, 13 January 2013
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2013 Dakar Rally, rest day, summary
Monday, 14 January 2013
19:00 hrs Eurosport 2013 Dakar Rally, leg 09, interviews at the finish line (live)
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2013 Dakar Rally, leg 09, summary
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
18:30 hrs Eurosport 2013 Rally Dakar, leg 10, interviews at the finish line (live)
23:15 hrs Eurosport 2013 Rally Dakar, leg 10, summary