A safe fourth place on Tuesday’s difficult 353-kilometre special stage 10 between Cordoba and Rioja in Argentina saw the Toyota Imperial South Africa Team’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz consolidate their second place in the general classification of the Dakar Rally.
While defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a Mini stretched their overall lead to 52 min 38 sec over the South African/German duo after finishing third on the special stage, the 2009 champions in their Imperial Toyota Hilux #301 extended their advantage over the Mini of third-placed Russians Leonid Novitskiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov to just over 16 minutes.
The South African-built Hilux didn’t miss a beat after starting fourth in the morning and although he got caught in the dust of the Hummer of Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch, De Villiers was content to push just hard enough to defend his second position and not risk it all trying to pass the Americans. It was a very technical stage similar to those encountered in the World Rally Championship, with narrow roads that were hard and fast.
Wednesday’s special stage from La Rioja to Fiambala is a relatively short 217 kilometres sandwiched between a 256-kilometre opening liaison section and a 6-kilometre link to the overnight bivouac. It is without doubt the most feared stage on the Dakar and has been a significant day in each of the editions since the rally moved from Africa to South America in 2009. Forestry sections and some very fast stretches give way to the big white dunes of Fiambala and later a labyrinth of canyons and finally dry river beds on the final stretch to the end of the stage. Maximum concentration is required, by both driver and co-driver. Temperatures can rise to 40 degrees Centrigrade.