JUJUY, Argentina – Toyota SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz worked hard on Tuesday’s Stage 3 of the 2016 Dakar Rally to finish the day second overall in the race.
The stage ran from Termas de Río Hondo to the town of Jujuy in northern Argentina – another day of heavy weather De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (#301), it was a mostly clear run.
De Villiers said at the end of the stage: “We had a slow puncture about 30km from the finish but decided not to change the wheel and lost about 25sec. The tyre was fully deflated about 10km from the end, which kept us quite busy.
“If not for that decision we would have finished third on the stage.”
DOWN CAME THE RAIN
The time was, however, good enough for fourth on the stage, 2min02 behind stage winner Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot).
The stage started with a bang for team mates Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie (#319). They were second-fastest to the first checkpoint and only four seconds behind Loeb when the heavens opened mid-stage so, with their eyes on the long game, they eased off. After 190km of racing they finished seventh-fastest, 3min03 behind Loeb but dropped from fifth to sixth overall.
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Another Toyota pair, Yazeed al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk, started Stage 3 13th after being penalised by five minutes for speeding in a restricted zone during Stage 2. They drove a steady stage to improve their overall position to ninth, 4min54 down on the Loeb.
It was, however, a fantastic stage for South Africa’s Brian Baragwanath. The quad rider won Stage 3 by four seconds after finishing second on Stage 2. He is still second overall but has clearly established himself as a strong contender.
The race will continue northward towards Bolivia today (Jan 5 2016) with a marathon stage from Jujuy. The 429km Stage 4 will have to be completed without any service or assistance from the team overnight, forcing crews to complete two full Dakar stages without the benefit of overnight attention to their vehicles.
VERY FAR AWAY – NOW IT’S OVER THE HILLS
Toyota SA’s team manager Glyn Hall told Carman’s Corner though a media release sent from Jujuy after the stage: “This is a time of high pressure. The Hilux has proven extremely reliable but even so we aren’t taking any chances – it will be a long night for the team as we prepare for the Marathon.”
The lack of service, however, won’t be the only worry for Stage 4, Toyota said. Today (Jan 6) will be the first of a number of stages at high altitude.
“While the 4050m maximum altitude of Stage 4 won’t be as high as those on the Bolivian stages to follow it will certainly have an influence on the performance of the non-turbo V8 petrol engines powering the three Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux race vehicles.
The day was marked by the battle between the leaders of the general standings. In the end, South African Brian Baragwanath, second behind Ignacio Casale, won the stage by just four seconds.
It was a prestigious victory but the South African is still 3min56 behind the Chilean. Behind them, Marcelo Medeiros, third to finish the stage, has strengthened his hold on his position in the general standings, but still lags behind the category leader by 6min58.
What a difference a day makes. Head and shoulders above the rest on Monday, KTM’s Australian rider Toby Price just didn’t get it right on Stage 3. Perhaps it was due to having to open the way he was never able to match the pace of the Hondas.
Even at the first checkpoint, he was overtaken by the “red army” and could not buck the trend, finishing 10th in the provisional standings, more than five minutes off the lead.
He was not the only one to suffer… Ruben Faria (Husqvarna), second to start the stage behind the Australian, also had to face the music aafter losing almost six minutes to the day’s winner, dropping to eighth in the general standings and almost four minutes off the top. Fortunately for the KTM Husqvarna group, Antoine Meo, the five times World Enduro champion, put in a superb performance on KTM number 49.
The Frenchman, participating in his first Dakar, was fourth on the stage, climbing up to 13th in the general standings. Below the new leader Barreda, Stefan Svitko (KTM), fifth on the day’s special, is 14sec behind and Kevin Benavides (Honda) is 48sec.
Czech driver Martin Kolomy (Tatra) triumphed ahead of Hans Stacey (Man) and Pieter Versluis (Man). Stacey keeps the lead in the general standings but loses 22 seconds to Versluis. Federico Villagra (Iveco), thanks to his third place on the special, climbs up to the same rank in the general standings.
WHAT’S TO COME…
After completing the marathon the crews will remain in Jujuy overnight before crossing into Bolivia at the start of Stage 5, the first of three stages in that country, before the Dakar returns to the Argentine city of Salta for a rest day.
The race will end on on January 16 in Rosario.
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