Toyota Imperial duo Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz in a car #303 yesterday recorded a fastest time of 2:49 off the winner during stage 8 of the 2015 Dakar Rally and 13 seconds behind overall rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah (MINI). This puts them solidly in 2nd position overall after eight stages.
The duo led for most of the 510 km-long stage, but an incident with one of the official TV helicopters saw them collide with a rock in the choking fesh-fesh dust kicked up by the helicopter. The resulting puncture cost them three minutes, as well as the stage win and valuable gains made over Al-Attiyah before the incident.
While De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz certainly has reason to be disappointed, Saudi driver Yazeed Alrahji and German navigator Timo Gottschalk, taking part in their first ever Dakar Rally, drove exceptionally well to record a maiden stage victory for the new generation Toyota Hilux, built at the Toyota Motorsport South Africa workshop near the famous Kyalami circuit.
The pair has shown remarkable pace throughout the event, but the victory confirms that they have the ability to mix it up with the biggest names of the Dakar. They are now in third place overall, just under ten minutes behind De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz.
For the crew of the second Toyota Imperial Hilux (#327), Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, it has been a race of emotional highs and lows. The pair has been extremely fast at times, but time lost on Stage 6 after they missed a waypoint effectively dropped them down and out of the running for overall victory. They are currently in 17th place overall.