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De Villiers sixth overall after first half of marathon stage

STILL WITH THE DAKAR LEADERS: Giniel de Villiers on the rocks on Stage 4, the first half of the high-altitude marathon stage. Image: Quickpic / Toyota SA
STILL WITH THE DAKAR LEADERS: Giniel de Villiers on the rocks on Stage 4, the first half of the high-altitude marathon stage. Image: Quickpic / Toyota SA

TAJITA, Bolivia – While support crews and staff headed for the Bolivian town of Tajita on Wednesday (Jan 6) Dakar 2016 crews were out there on

Stage 4 – a 429km marathon loop at altitudes soaring beyond 4000m with no welcoming service crew waiting at the overnight bivouac.

Without support last night (Wednesday) crews had to make do ahead of today’s (Thursday) Stage 5 – a tough situation for all the competitors and probably severe for some.

WATCH the day’s wrap on video

Stage 4 was, according to a Toyota SA media release, a tough one for the South African Gazoo Racing entries: “It proved to be a stern test, especially given the high altitudes, but the best of the Hiluxes – that of Yazeed al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk – posted the sixth-fastest time of the day.”

PEUGEOT TAKES THREE TOP SPOTS

They came home just under six minutes slower than the stage-winning time of 3hr42min42 set by a previous Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel in a Peugeot 308 rally car.

Peugeots took the first three places on the stage – second was Carlos Sainz and third Sebastien Loeb, 11 and 27sec behind their team mate. It was Peterhansel’s 33rd Dakar stage win in a car – but his 66th if his motorcycle-racing days are included.

READ EARLIER DAKAR 2016 FEATURES

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Dakar – at last! – gets down and dirty
De Villiers, Baragwanath flying SA flag high in Dakar
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Prologue halted after spectators injured
Mini goes even bigger for 2016 Dakar – 12 entries
SA Toyota crews storm ashore for 2016 Dakar

Nasser al-Attiyah (Mini) was fourth place hmoe, preventing Cyril Despres from completing the Peugeot whitewash by 57sec.

South Africans Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie in another Gazoo Racing Hilux started Stage 4 with a navigation error that cost them two minutes but then maintained their position and posted seventh-fastest, 16sec behind al-Rahji and Gottschalk.

SA TEAM ‘STILL CONFIDENT OF SUCCESS’

Fellow South Africans and Dakar veterans Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz started Wednesday second overall after “a good day” on Stage 3 but lost 8min34 on stage winner Peterhansel, falling back to sixth overall. The Toyota team said, however, that they were still confident of success in the two week-week race and were running second overall..

“Feedback from the race crews was limited because Stage 4 was classified as a marathon,” the Toyota statement said. “To make matters even more challenging not even the race crews were allowed to service their vehicle overnight so today’s (Thurs) Stage 5 will start with them trusting that their race car is ready for the 327km race up to the high altitudes of Uyuni in Bolivia.”

Provisional classification after Stage 4

1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, 3h42min42s
2. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, + 0min11s
3. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MC), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, + 0min7s
4. Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA), Mini, + 4min57s
5. Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, + 4min44s

Provisional overall classification after Stage 4

1. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MC), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, 9h44min51s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, +4min48s
3. Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA), Mini, + 11min09s
4. Leeroy Poulter (ZAF)/ Robert Howie (ZAF), Toyota Hilux, +12min31s
5. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, + 13min04s

THE TRUCKS
Three Hollanders took the top three places on Stage 4. Gerard de Rooy (Iveco) won the first half of the marathon stage after leading throughout the special. The 2012 champion fought hard with Pieter Versluis (Man) for 419km but was 37sec faster than his countryman at the overnight. Hans Stacey (+1min18) was third.

THE QUADS
Argentine quadder Marcos Patronelli won the stage without (Dakar official report’s words!) “breaking a sweat”. The two-times champion took the lead at the first control point and produced a flawless performance. Alexis Hernández (+16sec) and Ignacio Casale (+25sec) followed him into the overnight.

Big loser on the day was South African Brian Baragwanath who had been leading but had problems and finished the stage 40 minutes down the list.

THE BIKES
Honda rider Joan Barreda, according to the 2016 Dakar media site, failed to learn his lesson from a mistake on Tuesday and so ruined what was otherwise an awe-inspiring ride. The Honda team rider took the lead at the first checkpoint and racked up one fastest time after another.

Team mate Paulo Gonçalves was the only rider who could stay with him. So what was Barreda’s mistake? He was caught speeding again and incurred a five-minute penalty which cost him the stage win and the overall race lead, pushing him back to third behind Argentina’s Benavides.

TODAY’S STAGE

Thursday’s Stage 5 will be the first of a series of three stages in Bolivia, each at extremely high altitude, before the Dakar crosses the border back into to Argentina on January 9 where the race certainly will not become any easier.

Some really tough stages await – among them Stage 10 on which lie the fearsome Fiambalá sand dunes.

The 2016 Dakar will end on January 16 with Stage 13 into the Argentine city of Rosario.

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