Calama, 13 January 2014 ¡Hola Chile! The mighty Andes in their rear-view mirror and a whole pack of rivals just in front of them – Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz defended third place overall at the Rally Dakar to the best of their efforts. The story of the day was the lack of overtaking opportunities on the first special stage in Chile, which led from Salta to Calama. There were hardly any spots suitable for overtaking the man in front on the fast, narrow routes. With it virtually impossible to work one’s way through the field, “GdV” and “DvZ” had to settle for seventh place on today’s stage. They crossed the finish line at virtually the same time as two other cars – the Mini of Vladimir Vasilyev, who had started three minutes ahead of him, and fellow Mini driver Orlando Terranova, who had started the stage behind de Villiers/von Zitzewitz.
The ninth day of the “Dakar” saw the competitors cross the Andes for the only time on the 2014 rally, and thus cross from Argentina into Chile. The Paso de Jama, with a pass at an altitude of 4,836 metres above sea level, was just as dizzyingly high as the 120-kilometre long plateau, which lies at 4,400 metres and spanned the entire liaison stage. Once they had crossed the border into Chile, the competitors were faced with 302 kilometres against the clock. Here too, the height was a decisive factor: from 3,500 metres, the route descended to 2,200 and then back above the 3,000-metre mark on a further three occasions – a real “Dakar” rollercoaster.
“When you come up behind a rival but are unable to pass him, it is certainly very frustrating. However, that is exactly why we have the Sentinel system, which gives the man in front a signal that you want to overtake him. It was all going to plan – we came up behind Vladimir Vasilyev and paged him several times, but he never made space, even when we were right next to him. We lost a lot of time due to him today. We would have preferred to have hung onto the three minutes we lost unnecessarily. In fact, we could even have made up time. This colleague did a good job of preventing that.” Giniel de Villiers after stage 08
“We spent 150 kilometres in the dust behind Vladimir Vasilyev today. We used the Sentinel system for the first time 120 kilometres into the stage – no response. We were next to him – he covered us with dust and we had to let him pull back in front. Then we passed him and were almost immediately paged using Sentinel. We thought that Orlando Terranova, who started behind us, also wanted to pass and so pulled over to the right, as per the rules. However, it was Vasiljev paging us just seconds after we had overtaken him. To be honest, that is extremely unsportsmanlike. That is why we have launched a protest against him. However, the time we lost is gone for good.” Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 08
Results: Dakar Rally overall classification after leg 08
01. Joan Roma/Michel Périn (E/F), Mini, 29h 46m 08s
02. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (F/F), Mini, 30h 09m 54s
03. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Imperial Toyota, 30h 34m 33s
04. Orlando Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (RA/P), Mini, 30h 38m 03s
05. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (Q/E), Mini, 30h 55m 13s
06. Carlos Sainz/Timo Gottschalk (E/D), SMG, 31h 30m 07s
Coming up: Stage 09 preview
Calama–Iquique (liaison: 37, special stage: 422, liaison: 0 km)
The sea in sight! Tuesday’s leg of the “Dakar” starts in the mountains and descends towards the ocean. Chile’s Pacific coast provides a stunning backdrop for the competitors on day ten of the rally. However, as is so often the case, the drivers have barely any time to take in the picturesque scenery. They are more concerned with avoiding sinking in the sand. They are, after all, crossing the Atacama Desert – the driest place on the planet, where rain has never been recorded in some places. The competitors scramble their way through the sandy mountains, often in slow motion speed. However, the speed picks up again dramatically over the final kilometres. The drivers tear down the Cerro Dragón, a 337-hectare dune that provides the ultimate adrenaline kick at a gradient of up to 30 per cent. Braking is prohibited – otherwise the competitors risk tumbling sideways down the steep slope.
#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.