LA RIOJA, ARGENTINA – Stage 10 of Dakar 2016 brought the fearsome dunes of the Catamarca near the town of Fiambalá properly into play, as a number of the top crews faltered under the relentless South American sun. For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, it was again a day where the gods of the Dakar proved fickle, though Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (#301) moved up into third place overall.
The pair suffered a driveshaft problem mid-stage, and decided to change the shaft, losing 9 minutes in the process. They also lost around 4 minutes when they got stuck after having to open the road thanks to the retirement of Carlos Sainz (Peugeot).
“Even so, we are very pleased to have moved up to third place overall,” said De Villiers after reaching the bivouac at La Rioja. “However, there is still more than 1,000 km of racing ahead of us, so anything can still happen. For now, we just have to remain focused and continue at a good pace.”
Other than the driveshaft, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz reported no problems with their Toyota Hilux. According to Von Zitzewitz, “the car ran extremely well today. It was strong in the dunes, and we are very happy with the performance.”
It was a particularly solid performance by the German navigator today, as much of the outcome was determined by the quality of the navigation. For Von Zitzewitz, everything went smoothly on today’s stage, as he outclassed his opposing numbers in the early part of the route. With Giniel then having to open the road later on, the onus of solid navigation again fell heavily on Von Zitzewitz’ shoulders, but he handled the added pressure with aplomb.
“I’m very happy with Giniel and Dirk’s performance again today,” said Team Principal Glyn Hall after car #301 reached La Rioja at the end of Stage 10. “They drove very well, and the speed with which they changed the drive shaft was impressive. All the training we did before the start really paid off, and their navigation was truly spot on.”
Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie (#319), lost the best part of thirty minutes early in stage 10, but managed to restrict their time loss after that. The pair started the stage in 11th position, and posted the 9th-fastest time of the day, 34:32 behind stage winner Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot). They are now in 5th place in the overall standings, just ten minutes behind MINI’s Miko Hirvonen, and with three stages to go, the pair will be pushing hard to make up another position.
The fearsome dunes of Fiambalá wreaked havoc with some of the top crews today. Nasser al-Attiyah (MINI) rolled early in the stage, but recovered well to restrict his time loss to 52 minutes. He retained second place as a result, but is now under pressure from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz with just 12 minutes separating the two crews.
Dutch driver Erik van Loon was another victim of the dunes, as he rolled his MINI out of the race, while former winner Carlos Sainz’s Peugeot failed to complete the stage. Another victim of Fiambalá was Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Yazeed al Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (#305), who lost a wheel from their Toyota Hilux early in the stage.
The car was damaged to the point where they were forced to wait for assistance from the T4 truck – a separately-entered truck that races along the same route as the race cars, but carries spares and mechanics that are trained to make emergency repairs out on the stage.
“It was a very disappointing day for Yazeed today,” explained Hall. “He lost several hours waiting for the support truck, and is now out of contention.”
Three more stages remain in this year’s Dakar, with Stage 11 taking the crews to the Argentine town of San Juan via a 431 km-long stage, plus a liaison of 281 km. The stage features sand and more sand, including the fine fesh-fesh, which often reduces visibility for the drivers. This will be the final off-piste stage of Dakar 2016, before the race returns to the tighter, WRC-style tracks that lead to the end. The race finishes on Saturday January 16th, in the Argentine city of Rosario.