Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz stayed within reach of the leading drivers by finishing 13th on day three of the Dakar Rally, despite two flat tyres.
The Imperial Toyota Hilux of de Villiers and von Zitzewitz remain in sixth position overall on the marathon rally, while the team’s second car, driven by Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie moved into the overall top 10 by taking third place on the day.
The day three course between San Rafael and San Luis was characterised by punctures, not only for the number 302 Hilux but for their opponents as well. To make matters worse, de Villiers’ and von Zitzewitz’s automatic jack failed and so they had to jack up their Hilux by hand, losing six minutes on both occasions.
It is a measure of the car’s capability that despite the tyres, the team stays within 30 minutes of Joan Roma’s leading MINI.
After the stage, de Villiers said: “Today’s dramatic racing has plainly demonstrated that anything can happen at the Dakar Rally. Clearly we could have had a little more luck, but we could also have lost more time. Because the jack wasn’t working properly, we incurred significant time losses with both our punctures, but our opponents also sacrificed time. From the 110-kilometre points onwards, we drove very carefully – in light of this situation, today’s result is really rather good. We are still in business, as anything is possible in the coming days.”
Dirk von Zitzewitz added: “Who could have guessed that the hydraulic jack wouldn’t play along? Today we were forced to fall back on the manual jack, which needs to be removed from the car first. An operation such as this naturally wastes a lot of time. However, when you compare our times with our opponents, we won some and lost others. This year’s Dakar route is pretty mad. I can only recommend continuing to follow the rally otherwise you’re bound to miss something.”
After taking a more conservative approach that paid off on the rockiest sections of the course, Leeroy Poulter said: “We took it relatively easy in the rocky sections to avoid picking up punctures and were able to make up good time in faster, more open sections. Dust was again a big problem, which made overtaking slower cars very difficult.
“The spectators are amazing. They line the streets of the cities and towns on the liaison sections and even on long stretches of the racing stages. They cheer you on and their support is very uplifting. This is what the Dakar is all about and I’m loving it.”