It was a good day in hot Chile for the five South African-built Toyota Hilux 4x4s on the Dakar Rally on Thursday. After a second crossing of the Andes Mountains and the heat of the Atacama Desert, all safely reached the overnight bivouac.
Third place on the 319-kilometre special stage between Fiambala and Copiapo saw Toyota Imperial South Africa Team’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz close to within 50 minutes of the overall leaders, defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a Mini.
Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin took the stage win in a Mini ahead of Americans Robbie Gordon and Kellon Walch in a Hummer, with De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz just seven seconds behind the Americans and 1 min 38 sec in front of fourth-placed Peterhansel and Perin. Roma and Perin move up to third overall and are 40 min 45 sec behind De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
Significant for the South African/German duo in Imperial Toyota Hilux #301 was the fact that the Russian pairing of Leonid Novitskiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov (Mini), who started the day’s stage 16 minutes behind them in the general classification, only managed to finish ninth and have now dropped to fourth overall behind Roma and Perin.