- Gazoo storming back on Dakar?
- Rain behind them, racers thunder on
- De Villiers up from eighth to sixth
UYUNI, Bolivia – Stage 7 of the 2017 Dakar Rally in South America raced on Monday should have been the usual marathon race after the rest day but Mother Nature laughed at that idea with pouring rain, destroyed roads and a flooded bivouac.
The extreme weather in northern Bolivia forced Monday’s stage to be shortened to a piddling 161km – a breakfast-run distance for the world’s greatest off-road race and the awesome two, four and multi-wheeled vehicles that race in it.
Nevertheless, the stage was the stage and it provided an unexpected reprieve for South African team Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz and their Uitenhage-built Gazoo Hilux who started the day eighth overall and more than an hour behind race leader Stephane Peterhansel and his Peugeot.
“The Hilux had a clean run,” Toyota told The Corner in a media release, “to record the third-fastest time of the day, 3min33 slower than stage-winner Peterhansel. Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot) was second-fastest at 48sec slower than his Peugeot team mate.”
De Villiers said later: “We had a great run and the Hilux performed surprisingly well at the high altitudes. We lose between 30 and 40% of engine power thanks to the 3600m average altitude at which we raced today so we’re very happy to be so close to the times set by the turbocharged cars ahead of us.”
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz moved up into sixth in the overall standings and are now 24 minutes behind Mini’s Miko Hirvonen who is fifth.
Fellow Toyota Hilux crew Nani Roma/Alex Bravo (#305) also moved up in the overall classification, thanks in part to difficulties experienced by Peugeot’s Cyril Despres who was ahead of them at the midpoint of the race.
PROVISIONAL STAGE 7 RESULT
1 PETERHANSEL Stéphane (FR) / COTTRET J-P (FR) Peugeot 3008DKR – 1hr54min08
2 LOEB Sébastien (FR) / ELENA Daniel (MON) Peugeot 3008DKR – +48sec
3 DE VILLIERS Giniel (ZAF) / VON ZITZEWITZ Dirk (ZAF) Toyota Hi-Lux – +3min33
4 HIRVONEN Mikko (FIN) / PERIN Michel (FR) Mini – +5min03
5 ROMA Nani (SP) / HARO BRAVO Alex (SP) Toyota – +5min32
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 7
1 PETERHANSEL Stéphane (FR) / COTTRET J-P. (FR) Peugeot 3008DKR – 15h57min06
2 LOEB Sébastien (FRA) / ELENA Daniel (MON) Peugeot 3008DKR – +1min57
3 ROMA Nani (ESP) / HARO BRACO Alex (ESP) Toyota Hi-Lux – +11min7
4 DESPRES Cyril (FR) / David CASTERA (FR) Peugeot 3008DKR – +14min1
5 HIRVONEN Mikko (FIN) / PERIN Michel (FR) Mini – +47min24
Roma/Bravo were fifth-fastest on Stage 7, 5min32 behind Peterhansel. This, together with Despres’ misfortune, was good enough to move them towards a place on the Dakar podium. Their Hilux is now third place, 11min07 behind Peterhansel.
LAST REAL HIGH-ALTITUDE SECTION
Gazoo team boss Glyn Hall told The Corner at the bivouac at Tupiza: “We’re very happy with the Toyota crews’ performances today, The marathon stage was always a worry and it’s difficult for us to be so far away from the race vehicles.
“Giniel and Nani both drove well and reported ‘No problems!’ with their Hilux.”
Stage 8 today (Jan 10 2017) will be the last of the true high-altitude stages and will take the race back into Argentina for the last four race stages that will take the rally to the line in Buenos Aires on the South American east coast.
The race section will take the crews south over 492km between Uyuni in Bolivia and Salta in Argentina, a total distance of 892km. Along the way will be a number of dune sections, river crossings and fast canyon drives.
It will start at 8.55am Argentine time (1.55pm SA time) as the rally clock adjusts to make up for the time difference between Bolivia and Argentina.