LA RIOJA, Argentina – Stage 10 of the 2016 Dakar on Wednesday (Jan 13) brought the fearsome dunes of the Catamarca, near the town of Fiambalá, properly into play and a number of the top crews faltered under the relentless South American sun.
For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, however, it was again a day where the gods of the Dakar proved fickle though Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (#301) moved up into third place overall.
They suffered a driveshaft problem mid-stage and decided to change the shaft, losing nine minutes in the process. They also lost around four minutes when they got stuck after having to open the road thanks to the retirement of Carlos Sainz (Peugeot).
“Even so, we are very pleased to have moved up to third place overall,” De Villiers said after reaching the bivouac at La Rioja. “However, there is still more than 1000km of racing ahead of us so anything can still happen. For now, we just have to remain focused and continue at a good pace.”
Other than the driveshaft, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz reported no problems with their Toyota Hilux. According to Von Zitzewitz: “The car ran extremely well today. It was strong in the dunes and we are very happy with the performance.”
It was a particularly solid performance by the German navigator today; much of the outcome was determined by the quality of the navigation. For Von Zitzewitz everything went smoothly as he outclassed his opposing numbers in the early part of the route. With De Viliers then having to open the road later on, the onus of solid navigation again fell heavily on Von Zitzewitz’ shoulders but he handled the added pressure.
Gazoo team boss Glyn Hall said later: “I’m very happy with Giniel and Dirk’s performances again today. They drove very well and the speed with which they changed the drive shaft was impressive. All the training we did before the start really paid off – and their navigation was truly spot on.”
THREE TO GO AND PUSHING HARD
Another Gazoo pair, Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie (#319), lost the best part of 30 minutes early in Stage 10 but managed to restrict their time loss after that. The pair started the stage 11th position and posted the ninth-fastest time of the day to finish 34min32 behind stage winner Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot). They are now in fifth overall, 10minutes behind Mini’s Miko Hirvonen.
With only three stages to go, the pair will be pushing hard to make up another position.
The fearsome dunes of Fiambalá wreaked havoc with some of the top crews today. Nasser al-Attiyah (Mini) rolled early in the stage but recovered well to restrict his time loss to 52 minutes. He retained second place as a result but is now under pressure from Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz with just 12 minutes separating the two crews.
Dutch driver Erik van Loon was another victim of the dunes – he rolled his Mini out of the race – while former winner Carlos Sainz’s Peugeot failed to complete the stage. Another victim of Fiambalá was Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Yazeed al-Rajhi and navigator Timo Gottschalk (#305), who lost a wheel from their Toyota Hilux early in the stage.
The car was damaged to the point where they were forced to wait for assistance from the T4 truck – a separately-entered truck that races along the same route as the race cars but carries spares and mechanics trained to make emergency repairs out on the stage.
“It was a very disappointing day for Yazeed today,” explained Hall. “He lost several hours waiting for the support truck and is now out of contention.”
…AND OVER TO PEUGEOT...
Meanwhile, at the front of the overall race, Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret won the drama-filled stage to take the overall lead with an advantage of an hour over second placed Nasser al-Attiyah and Toyota SA’s Giniel de Villiers in third. The Peterhansel pair pushed from start to finish to claim their 35th Dakar stage win.
from Belen to La Rioja, Argentina
News from other Peugeot teams: Cyril Despres and David Castera put in another great performance, despite stopping to assist Peterhansel and Cottret on the stage. Their second-fastest stage time allowed the Peugeot 2008 DKR entries to claim a seventh 1-2 on a Dakar stage.
Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz started Wednesday morning in the lead but had to abandon all hopes of victory 30km from the end of the stage when the spacer between the engine and the gearbox gave way and the Spanish crew had to wait for their support truck. The team was doing all it could to make sure of a re-start on Thursday.
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had another character-building stage. They got stuck after the engine stalled and ended up on their roof after coming down a dune. Nonetheless, they still set fifth-fastest time on the most typical rally raid stage of the 2016 Dakar.
PETERHANSEL: ‘WE HAD A PRETTY BAD START’
The stage was shortened after 245 of the 278km scheduled distance because of an overflowing river at the end of the planned route.
Peterhansel said later: “We got off to a pretty bad start. We got lost at 32km and drove around for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, I just went for it because I thought everything was lost anyway. We took some risks and pushed very hard because we knew that this stage would be decisive. This was a proper rally raid stage with tricky navigation, off-piste roads; deep ruts…everything that makes rally raids so demanding.
“That’s where you make or lose big amounts of time. I had a puncture and I just went like crazy. We were a bit out of control… but when we were going, we were going quickly. We’ve made an important step forward in the overall classification. And it’s good to know that Cyril is just behind us to give us a hand. He’s really getting on it now, although that was never his plan at the start.”
Sébastien Loeb, fifth on the stage, added: “There’s not an awful lot that’s positive from Wednesday. I just have to get used to it. It was difficult: complicated in every way even though we had some tracks to follow. For those who were at the front, it must have been really hard.
“We were on the verge of getting stuck more or less everywhere. The end of the stage was a bit more fun with a few dunes. We lost about 10 minutes looking for a waypoint. We also had a bit of a roll over a dune. After two punctures, a roll, getting stuck and getting lost we still somehow managed to finish fifth!”
Provisional classification of stage 10 (Belén-La Rioja)
1 Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, 3h58min32s
2 Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, +5min40s
3 Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS), Toyota Hilux, +12min56
4 Nani Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro Bravo (ESP), Mini All 4 Racing, +14min33s
5 Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MC), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, +17min40s
Provisional overall classification after stage 10
1 Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, 32h44min59s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA), Mini All 4 Racing, + 1h00min00s
3 Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (DEU), Toyota Hilux, +1h12min31s
4 Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Michel Perin (FRA), Mini All 4 Racing, +1h23min51s
5 Leeroy Poulter (ZAF)/Robert Howie (ZAF), Toyota Hilux, +1h33min58s
6 Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, +1h50mins07s
9 Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MC), PEUGEOT 2008 DKR, +2h27min31s
Three stages remain in this year’s Dakar- the next, Stage 11, will take the crews to the Argentine town of San Juan via a 431km stage, plus a liaison of 281km. The stage features sand and more sand, including the fine fesh-fesh which often reduces visibility for the drivers.
This will be the final off-piste stage of Dakar 2016 before the race returns to the tighter, World Rally championship-style, tracks that lead to the end.
The race will finish on Saturday January 16 in the Argentine city of Rosario.