• Toyota Imperial’s De Villiers closes to within 5min 18sec of leader Al-Attiyah
• Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi climbs to fifth with third quickest time in stage three
• Overdrive Racing’s Lavieille in 10th place; Dabrowski 15th; Poulter 21st overall
• Engine issues sideline Alvarez; good stages for Olholm, Jerie and Bensadoun
Overdrive Racing and Hallspeed-prepared Toyota Hiluxes remain firmly in contention for a first ever outright victory in the gruelling Dakar Rally after another impressive display on the third 284km special stage between San Juan and Chilecito in Argentina meant there were four Toyotas in the overall top 10.
South African Giniel De Villiers was in particularly potent form in his Toyota Imperial South Africa Hilux and closed to within 5min 18sec of overall leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah after clocking the second quickest time behind Argentina’s stage winner Orlando Terranova.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk began day three in eighth after clocking the sixth fastest time on the demanding second special. But the Saudi had the bit between his teeth on the third stage and was classified third behind Terranova and De Villiers. His superb performance was rewarded with fifth in the overall standings.
Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul were promoted from seventh to third place before the start of the second stage into San Juan after first day provisional leader Al-Attiyah was awarded a two-minute time penalty for speeding in a restricted zone. It boosted the Dutchman’s confidence no end and he went on to record the second quickest time on the longest stage of the event between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan to climb to a superb third place.
“I was tired after that second stage,” admitted the Dutchman. “It was a nice stage. There were fast WRC tracks and sandy pieces. It was hard on the body and the car. I think the temperature reached 45C. Last year we had a lot of mechanical problems but now we are happy with the Toyota and Overdrive. This is a very good car.” Ten Brinke lost a little time in stage three and slipped to eighth in the rankings.
De Villiers and team-mate Leeroy Poulter had both put in impressive performances on the second stage into San Juan in the Toyota Imperial South Africa Toyota Hiluxes. De Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz reached the finish in second place behind race Al-Attiyah and moved into a similar position in the overall rankings. Poulter and fellow South African co-driver Robert Howie were running as high as second before finishing the special in 12th. It was sufficient to move Poulter from 14th to eighth overall.
“The second stage was very tough,” admitted De Villiers. “The second part especially in the fesh-fesh, we were catching the bikes. This was definitely the first big test of the Dakar. It was important to stay clean.”
Poulter lost 45 minutes with technical issues shortly after the start of the third stage and eventually dropped more than an hour and fell to 21st overall.
Frenchman Christian Lavieille and his 2002 Dakar Rally-winning co-driver Pascal Maimon were 13th at the start of stage three and the ninth quickest time lifted the French duo into the top 10. “I’m not setting myself any objectives,” said Lavieille. “The Dakar is not a race like the others. It’s so long and difficult. It’s a wise man who knows what awaits him the next day on this rally. My first impressions of the new car are good. It is quick and reliable.”
Marek Dabrowski and Mark Powell began day three in 14th overall with their Orlen Team Toyota Hilux and slipped a place to 15th, while Kazakh Bauyrzhan Issabayev and Russian partner Vladimir Demyanenko left San Juan in 27th position and reached Chilecito in 24th.
Lithuanian Benediktas Vanagas and his Belarussian navigator Andrei Rudnitski left San Juan in 28th overall and climbed three places in their Overdrive Toyota Hilux to an unofficial 25th.
Technical problems had pushed Australian Geoff Olholm and French navigator Edouard Boulanger down to 49th at the start of day three and they completed the stage 23 seconds behind Ten Brinke to move up the order.
Czech driver Peter Jerie and experienced French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter began the run into Chilecito in 58th and also climbed a little in the rankings after a solid drive.
The second stage spelt the end of the road for the Argentine duo of Lucio Alvarez and Roberto Patti. They had been in 16th position and running well through the gruelling second stage before a piston ring failed in the Toyota’s engine.
The Canadian duo of David Bensadoun and Patrick Beaulé are also driving an Overdrive-prepared Toyota Hilux and began the third stage from 51st overall, despite rolling their car on its side in stage two. “We weren’t driving very quickly after 45km, but there was a lot of dust. On a bend, the front left wheel hit a rock and flipped the car on its side. It was the first time it has ever happened to me. Whilst we were trying to get it back on its wheels, another car arrived and crashed into us and damaged the bodywork. But we made it back to the bivouac.”
Teams will cross the spine of the mighty Andes mountain range via the San Francisco Pass into Chile on Wednesday (January 7) and head towards the copper mining town of Copiapó and the first of the towering dunes of the Atacama Desert.
From there, the route heads further north through the heart of the Chilean Atacama to a stopover at the coastal mining hub of Antofagasta on Thursday, January 8. It moves even further north through high altitude dunes and sandy terrain to the town of Iquique on Friday, January 7 – a town that will also play host to the official rest day over the weekend and the base for Marathon stage forays across the border into Bolivia and the town of Uyuni.
2015 Dakar Rally – top 5 positions on SS3 (San Juan – Chilecito):
1. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Ronnie Graue (ARG) Mini All4 Racing 2hr 57min 28sec
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Imperial Hilux 2hr 59min 22sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 3hr 00min 20sec
4. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Peugeot 2008 DXR 3hr 01min 34sec
5. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 01min 46sec
2015 Dakar Rally – overall positions after stage 3:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 9hr 21min 26sec
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Imperial Hilux 9hr 26min 44sec
3. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Ronnie Graue (ARG) Mini All4 Racing 9hr 39min 31sec
4. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Peugeot 2008 DXR 9hr 40min 58sec
5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 9hr 41min 34sec
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 9hr 46min 50sec
7. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini All4Racing 9hr 49min 09sec
8. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NED)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 9hr 57min 48sec
9. Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fuiza (PRT) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer 10hr 03min 18sec
10 Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux