In at the deep end: unsteady start to “Dakar” for #302
San Luis, 05 January 2014Just a few kilometres old, the “Dakar” has already shown just how relentless it can be: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz ended day one of the 2014 back in 27th place, 15:57 minutes off the lead. A quick rhythm and a route resembling the kind of challenge usually found in the WRC – the toughest rally in the world put competitors to the test right from the word go, giving them no time to ease their way in. Warm-up? Not likely. Back in competition mode for the first time since the 2013 “Dakar”, “GdV” and “DvZ” took only calculated risks in the opening stages – as is their style. The first 180 of 5,522 kilometres of special stage took them over rocky surfaces, with the X-raid MINI team living up to its billing as hot favourites. However, three unscheduled stops prevented de Villiers/von Zitzewitz from remaining on a par with its direct rivals. The power assisted steering on the Hilux failed, due to a faulty gasket. Proof of what would have been possible in the Toyota Hilux “made in South Africa” without the unavoidable set-backs came in the form of Hallspeed team-mates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, who came home ninth having previously led the stage.
The day’s route led from the start of the “Dakar” in Rosario to San Luis. Heading west towards the Andes, the terrain climbed consistently throughout the 180-kilometre special stage – reaching an altitude just above the 2,000-metre mark. The 2010 and 2011 rallies did tackle parts of the stage – but in reverse. The characteristics of the route? Similar to those of a special stage in the World Rally Championship. Giniel de Villiers had prepared for this very section of the “Dakar” by competing in sprint rallies in his home of South Africa.
Results: Dakar Rally overall classification after leg 01
Coming up: Stage 02 preview
San Luis–San Rafael (liaison: 304 km, special stage: 433 km, liaison: 62 km)
The “Dakar” gets dirty – and dusty. The competitors in this year’s “Dakar” face the fastest special stage in the 2014 race. The organisers calculated the average speed at 115 km/h – few WRC rallies are that quick, although only the first section between San Luis and San Rafael is actually full-throttle. “You really need to put your foot down over the first 330 kilometres,” said Giniel de Villiers. “It is also extremely dusty, making overtaking virtually impossible.” However, the characteristics of the route change dramatically again for the remaining 100 kilometres – typical “Dakar”. The green dunes of Nihuil await the driving teams. Extremely steep gradients and a very high portion of vegetation resembling camel grass make it particularly difficult to cross these dunes. However, more dangers lurk behind the dunes: in many of the valleys between the dunes, the drivers will be faced with small lakes, which are extremely muddy. Anyone who gets too close to these lakes can expect a lengthy and unwelcome break.
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 2014 the De-Villiers-von-Zitzewitz-Toyota combination enters the third round. In the meantime, he has achieved great success: this is reflected in eleven 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.
The “Dakar” on TV
Sunday, 05 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, highlights
Monday, 06 January 2014
00:15 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, highlights
01:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, highlights
08:30 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, Sunday highlights (re-run)
10:00 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, Sunday highlights (re-run)
13:00 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 01. leg, Sunday highlights (re-run)
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, highlights
Tuesday, 07 January 2014
00:15 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, highlights
01:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, highlights
09:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, Monday highlights (re-run)
10:00 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, Monday highlights (re-run)
13:00 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 02. leg, Monday highlights (re-run)
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 03. leg, highlights