Taking on physics – “GdV” and “DvZ” third overall at the “Dakar”
Salta, 12 January 2014 Still in the running for a podium finish: Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz put the expected difficulties on leg seven behind them to maintain their hopes of bringing Project Podium to a successful conclusion at the Rally Dakar. Although the characteristics of the Salta-Salta special stage played right into the hands of their rivals in diesel-powered vehicles, “GdV” and “DvZ” ended the final stage in Argentina in third place overall with their Toyota Hilux “made in South Africa”.
The seventh stage of the Rally Dakar did not dip below the 3,400-metre mark. On two occasions, the route – a loop around Salta – reached altitudes of over 4,000 metres above sea level. For comparison: South Africa, home of the Hallspeed team running the Toyota Hilux for Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, does not have a single mountain approaching anywhere near the same height as those experienced on today’s stage. The high altitude not only took the driver and co-driver’s breath away – but also starved the car of oxygen. These conditions are certainly more suited to diesel cars for physical and rule-related reasons. They lose less performance as a result of the decreasing oxygen content than petrol-powered cars. Furthermore, the start of the seventh stage featured full-throttle sections, before crossing the Salinas Grandes – about a ten-kilometre section over a salt lake. Kilometre by kilometre, “GdV” and “DvZ” consistently lost time due to the loss of performance – over 16 minutes in total to today’s stage winners Carlos Sainz/Timo Gottschalk (E/D, SMG-Buggy). However, they only dropped about eight minutes compared to their direct rivals – the X-raid Mini crews of Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret und Joan Roma/Michel Périn.
Yesterday’s rest day saw “GdV” and “DvZ” benefit retrospectively from a 15-minute penalty awarded to their rival Orlando Terranova (Mini) for unsportsmanlike conduct. De Villiers/von Zitzewitz moved into third place overall as a result.
“To be perfectly honest, I squeezed every last drop out of the Hilux today. At these altitudes, the advantage definitely lies with the diesel cars, while the stage also suited the buggies more than it did us. We tried to make the best of the situation – and that is precisely what we did. I could not have put my foot down any more. The first half, in particular, was a bit of a struggle. Then we suffered a flat tyre at about the 80-kilometre mark, which certainly didn’t help. However, we did expect to lose time today. Tomorrow is a new day, and Chile awaits us. The ‘Dakar’ takes on a different appearance after that. We are ready for it.”
Giniel de Villiers after stage 07
“Today was as tough as expected for us. Above 3,500 metres in altitude we lost almost all performance. We really had to fight hard to overcome this today – particularly in the first half of the stage. On top of all that came a puncture, resulting in the loss of a few more minutes. The key was to keep calm and battle on to the finish as quickly as possible. We did that well, and Giniel drove superbly. We almost hit a lama too when it jumped out in front of our car. Thankfully we were able to swerve just in time.”
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 07
Results: Dakar Rally overall classification after leg 07
01. Joan Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 27h 03m 53s
02. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 27h 35m 23s
03. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 27h 52m 15s
04. Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (RA/P), Mini, 27h 58m 26s
05. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (Q/E), Mini, 28h 21m 55s
06. Carlos Sainz/Timo Gottschalk (E/D), SMG, 28h 54m 34s
Coming up: Stage 08 preview
Salta–Calama (liaison: 522, special stage: 302, liaison: 215 km)
Were the “Dakar” a sightseeing tour, the eighth stage between Salta and Calama would be an absolute delight. However, the crossing of the majestic Andes also includes a 302-kilometre special stage once the cars have crossed the border between Argentina and Chile, the “roof” of the “Dakar” at 4,836 metres, and the breath-taking Paso de Jama with its plateau at 4,400 metres above sea level. It is not uncommon for the competitors to already be exhausted before the special stage even gets going, as they have already completed a 522-kilometre liaison by this point. The eighth special stage is characterised by fast, narrow sections and few overtaking opportunities.
#302, 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.
#302, 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, 12 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 07th leg, highlights
Monday, 13 January 2014
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 08th leg, highlights
Tuesday, 14 January 2014
00:15 hrs Eurosport2 2014 Dakar Rally, 08th leg, highlights (re-run)
23:00 hrs Eurosport 2014 Dakar Rally, 09th leg, highlights