De Villiers all set for Dakar Stage 1 fight-back

QUICK CHILL FOR A TOYOTA: This water crossing on the Dakar prologue caused pain for some competitors but a Toyota SA-built Hilux blasted happily through. Image: Dakar photographers
QUICK CHILL FOR A TOYOTA: This water crossing on the Dakar prologue caused pain for some competitors but a Toyota SA-built Hilux (Yazeed al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk, in car #305) blasted happily through. Image: Florent Godden, Dakar photographers

ROSARIO, Argentina – Dakar 2016 is under way! On January 2 the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team completed the ceremonial start in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, before taking part in the 11km prologue, used to determine start positions for Stage 1.

For Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, according to an email to Carman’s Corner, it could hardly have been better.

De Villiers reported from the bivouac at Rosario after the prologue: “These short stages are tricky. If you push too hard you can lose the race before it even starts. At the same time, you need to make sure you don’t lose too much time to the leaders.

MAJOR UPSET FOR POULTER AND HOWIE

“Anywhere in the top 10 was ideal.” And so it proved… the eighth-fastest time of the day and only nine seconds off the pace set by stage-winner Bernhard ten Brinke from the Netherlands in another Toyota Hilux. This, De Villiers said, set him up perfectly for the first official stage as the teams ahead will have to sweep the track and so show the way.

For Yazeed al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk, in car #305, the prologue yielded a less-than-ideal start position. They lost time in a water crossing near the start of the stage and, even though they managed to power through to the end, finished 21st position, 25sec behind Ten Brinke.

PRE-PROLOGUE BIG WAVE: Timo Gottschalk (DEU) (right) and Alrajhi Yazeed (SAU) with their Toyota Hilux before blasting off on the Dakar 2016 Prologue. Image Gregory Lenormand / DPPI
PRE-PROLOGUE BIG WAVE: Timo Gottschalk (DEU) (right) and Alrajhi Yazeed (SAU) with their Toyota Hilux before blasting off on the Dakar 2016 Prologue. Image Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

The biggest upset of the day, however, came when Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie caught up with Brazil’s Guilherme Spinelli (Mitsubishi) barely two kilometres into the stage. Spinelli had taken a wrong turn and returned to the correct route just ahead of Poulter/Howie.

The result: the Toyota was stuck in the Mitsubishi’s dust right to the end of the stage, losing 29sec in the process.

HALL: ‘WE’LL GIVE THEM THE BEST SHOT POSSIBLE’

Poulter said later: “It was a really disappointing prologue. We could’ve gone so much faster – but this is the Dakar and things like this are all part and parcel of the race. It does leave us with a bit of work to do over the next few days but we’re still upbeat and confident.”

Team principal Glyn Hall was confident of securing better start positions for both Poulter and Al Rajhi: “We’re doing everything we can to give the crews the best possible shot. A bit of bad luck came into play on the prologue but there are still 13 stages to come…”

READ EARLIER DAKAR 2016 FEATURES
Prologue halted after spectators injured
Mini goes even bigger for 2016 Dakar – 12 entries
SA Toyota crews storm ashore for 2016 Dakar

The day was, as The Corner was the first to report early on Sunday morning, marred by an accident on the prologue. Details remain sketchy, contacts in Argentina said, but apparently a private competitor lost control of his race car and went off the track, injuring a number of spectators in the process.

The stage was immediately cancelled, which meant that South African competitors Sean Reitz (Nissan) and Collin Matthews (Century) have yet to start their Dakar campaigns.

South Africa’s Brian Baragwanath posted the seventh-fastest time in the quad category, 11sec behind stage-winner Ignacio Casale of Chile. The motorcycle category was won by Spain’s Joan Barreda – also reported earlier on The Corner.

HEADING FOR THE ANDES MOUNTAINS

Stage 1 will, the Toyota media release reported, will be a test in true Dakar style: 404km of liaison and 662km of special stage.

“Even though the highest point of the route is only 1400m above sea level,” the bulletin said, “the Andes will become visible in the distance – a warning of the high altitudes to come. The stage wil have undulating tracks on the latter parts, some fast and open sections near the start.”

The 2016 Dakar Rally started with a prologue on January 2, and will see teams travel north into Bolivia before returning to the Argentine city of Rosario for the finis, on January 16. Carman’s Corner will do its best to keep you up to date. Bookmark us…

Programme for the 2016 Dakar

02/01: Start podium in Buenos Aires / Prologue / Liaison to Bivouac “0” close to Rosario
03/01: Buenos Aires – Villa Carlos Paz
04/01: Villa Carlos Paz – Termas de Río Hondo
05/01: Termas de Río Hondo – Jujuy
06/01: Jujuy – Jujuy
07/01: Jujuy – Uyuni
08/01: Uyuni – Uyuni
09/01: Uyuni – Salta
10/01: Rest day in Salta
11/01: Salta – Belén
12/01: Belén – Belén
13/01: Belén – La Rioja
14/01: La Rioja – San Juan
15/01: San Juan – Villa Carlos Paz
16/01: Villa Carlos Paz – Rosario

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