The underdog returns english

4. Januar 2013

The underdog returns – or – de Villiers/von Zitzewitz and the 2013 Rally Dakar

Lima/Peru, 3rd January 2013 The underdog is back. And has it blossomed into a dark horse for victory? In January 2013, Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz will line up at the toughest test in motorsport – the Rally Dakar through Peru, Argentina and Chile – in a Hilux pick-up developed for Toyota South Africa by Hallspeed. They are ready to spring another surprise on the established teams and hot favourites once again. Ready to take the next step towards a new era of marathon rallying. The South African/German duo made motorsport history at the 2012 “Dakar”. Following last year’s successful debut, the 2013 desert classic (5th to 20th January) sees de Villiers/von Zitzewitz start out on a new three-year programme with Toyota South Africa.

Looking back at a milestone in the history of the Rally Dakar: Giniel de Villiers from Stellenbosch/South Africa and Dirk von Zitzewitz from Karlshof/Germany and Imperial Toyota finished third overall at the toughest rally in the world, thus heralding the future of endurance rallies. Armed with their privately run Hilux, which was developed in accordance with new Dakar regulations to be introduced in 2013, they claimed a podium finish against far more powerful opponents at the first attempt – and at the premiere for the Toyota Hilux too. For de Villiers/von Zitzewitz, this was the third of four possible top-three finish at the legendary desert rally since it moved to South America five years ago – no other duo can boast such a successful record on this continent. Their victory in 2009 saw “Ginny” and “Schnietz”, as the friends know each other, herald the era of diesel dominance, which continues today. With third place in 2012, they demonstrated the capabilities of petrol-driven prototypes and future, production-based drive technology. The last time a car run on conventional petrol finished in the top three was in 2009.

The conditions going into the 35th staging of the Rally Dakar in January 2013 are remarkably similar for de Villiers/von Zitzewitz to those faced in 2012: semi works teams and racing teams with a wealth of “Dakar” experience are once again the hot favourites: these include the X-raid Mini team, with multiple winners Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F) and their team-mates Joan “Nani” Roma/Michel Périn (E/F). Then there is Robby Gordon/Walch Kellon (USA/USA) in the Hummer H3. The Toyota Hilux with start number 301 – Three-O-One – once again finds itself in the role of underdog – and that although the team behind Principal Glyn Hall, driver Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz have worked even more meticulously and precisely than in the run-up to its debut in 2012.

Three-O-One, take two: the evolution of the Toyota Hilux “made in South Africa”

In July 2012, work began on a “Dakar” prototype based on the 2012 Hilux, but the subject of fundamental modifications, with the project set to run until the 2015 “Dakar”. The pick-up will once again bear the start number “Three-O-One” in 2013. The specifications, which incorporate the findings from the 2012 “Dakar”, include a huge programme of developments: a new axel geometry for improved handling in the dunes, a new Group N engine – a production-based 5-litre V8 power house, rather than the 4.6-litre engine – and, consequently, a new minimum weight of 1,975 kilograms were the primary areas, on which the engineers focussed.

During the development work, Hallspeed – the development and race team for Toyota South Africa – benefitted from the Toyota Hilux’s outings in the South African Off-Road Championship, which is probably the most fiercely-competitive national off-road series in the world. Bit by bit, the components of the “Dakar” Hilux were subjected to extensive tests there. Other tests, including outings in the Namib Desert and the dunes in Peru shortly before the 2013 Rally Dakar, produced more valuable findings regarding the set-up of the public’s favourite pick-up. Furthermore, the new regulations are far more suited to the Toyota Hilux in 2013: whilst Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz already have experience of racing with a production-based engine in 2012, the new rules mean that last year’s winners must now also line up with production-based drive trains. In addition, the diameter of the air restrictor on the Toyota Hilux has been increased from 35 to 36 millimetres – allowing greater engine power.

From nought to one hundred in a matter of metres –

the standard at the “Dakar” 2013 is set to be extremely high

The competitors will encounter the dunes and the deep sand typical of the “Dakar” as early as the day of the Ceremonial Start: never before has a Rally Dakar plunged its participants straight into the ‘deep end’. Never before have the organisers at the A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation) given the teams and drivers so little time to find their feet. The mother of all desert rallies will start at Lima (Peru) for the first time. The struggle against the extremes of the “Dakar” begins on 5th January 2013 for de Villiers/von Zitzewitz and their opponents. Even on the short 13-kilometre opening stage, they will face sandy terrain outside the town of Pisco. Small but nasty dunes on the way through Peru, the scorching heat of Argentina’s Sierras Pampeanas, and the forbidding and ruthless Atacama Desert in Chile – the driest place on the planet – are what make the “Dakar” such a unique challenge. On top of all this, the participants will be faced with South America’s typical mixture of marble-like gravel, tyre-destroying scree, dusty mud, towering dunes and fine “Guadal” sand. Winding mountain passes alternate on a daily basis with wide open terrain – the ultimate test for technology, driver and navigator. Typical “Dakar”. From Lima, the route leads through Peru, over the Andes along passes at altitudes of just below 5,000 metres, to Argentina, where the only rest day of the 2013 “Dakar” is scheduled for 13th January in San Miguel – the capital of the province of Tucumán. On 16th and 17th January, Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz will have to demonstrate the same combination of driving and navigational skills that won them the 2009 event as they endeavour to negotiate the labyrinth of canyons around Fiambalá whilst at the same time crossing demanding dunes. Having crossed the Andes again, they must overcome the merciless sandy mountains around Copiapó before the 2013 “Dakar” draws to a close in Santiago de Chile on 20th January.

Quotes

“Now, with just a few days to go until the ‘Dakar’, you can feel the anticipation and excitement ahead of the start. We have entered into a three-year programme with Toyota South Africa and are lining up with a Hilux that was rebuilt from scratch. A lot has changed since 2012 – particularly the technology. However, in 2013 we will once again be able to rely on many of the aspects that made us so successful last year. Hallspeed is an outstanding team and will be even better in its second year at the ‘Dakar’. Not only do I share the sporting philosophy with which we won the Rally Dakar back in 2009 with my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, but also a friendship stretching back many years. I am particularly looking forward to the excellent understanding we have with the team. Maybe we can repeat last year’s feat and be the surprise package at the ‘Dakar’.”

Giniel de Villiers ahead of the 2013 Rally Dakar

“There is a saying that the next Rally Dakar is always the toughest. That is exactly why I say: bring on the ‘Dakar’. We are better prepared than last year, have great backing from Hallspeed and Toyota South Africa, a gem of a vehicle from Hilux, which incorporates a lot of development work and engineering talent, and a driver and co-driver with a wealth of experience. We can hardly wait to roll over the start ramp on

5th January and get the first few sandy kilometres under our belts. Right from the first metre, our biggest opponent will be the rally itself. In no other form of motorsport is the unspoken law ‘to finish first, you first have to finish’ as applicable as at the ‘Dakar’. That is also our strength though, so: bring on the ‘Dakar’.”

Dirk von Zitzewitz ahead of the 2013 Rally Dakar

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.

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