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With just one stage to go, South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewits are running solidly in second place overall, sandwiched between two Minis.
At the end of Friday’s 13th stage, De Villiers was running 44 minutes behind the race leader Stephane Peterhansel and almost 45 minute s ahead of the remaining podium contender Leonid Novitskiy.
The stage, which took teams from Copiapo to La Serena in Chile, was won by American Robby Gordon in his Hummer, with Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) and Orlando Terranova (BMW X3) completing the podium.
De Villiers’ fourth place stage ranking was enough for the Hilux driver to gain six minutes on Peterhansel, who came home in ninth position after taking a cautious approach to the stage.
The South African also kept things on the calm side, as he explained at the end of the stage: “This was not a stage to attack on. Once again the stage proved tough, as expected.
“In the dunes we were twice forced to take double runs in order to cross them, otherwise everything ran to plan. Our Toyota Hilux continues to be reliable and trouble-free and has proved itself on all sorts of terrain. We have one day left ahead of us, and we must aim to retain second place at the finish.”
The final stage, which will take teams to the finish line in Santiago, is not going to be a walk in the park, however.
The stage will see competitors tackle a 502km liaison section, followed by a 128km timed stage which promises to be twisty and really dusty.
In the biking contingent, KTM rider Francisco Lopez achieved his fourth stage win of this year’s event, moving him to second place in the overall rankings. Fellow KTM rider Cyril Despres was second quickest on the stage, and currently leads the bike race by 8m15s.
On the South African front, Riaan van Niekerk finished the stage in 19th place and currently sits 13th overall, while his KTM team-mate Darryl Curtis is running 30th overall after finishing 69th.
Honda rider Brett Cummings, meanwhile, upped his game in stage 13 to finish 29th, but still sits 43rd in the rankings.
RESULTS – STAGE 13
1. Robby Gordon (Hummer) 3h40m53
2. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +22s
3. Orlando Terranova (BMW) + 4m41
4. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) + 8:08
5. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +8:35
6. Lucio Alvarez (Toyota) +11:01
7. Carlos Sousa (GWM) +12:45
8. Ronan Chabot (SMG) +13:05
9. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) +13:51
1. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) 36h44m46
2. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +44m38
3. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +1h29:31
4. Nani Roma (Mini) +1h40:26
5. Orlando Terranova (BMW) +1h52:40
6. Carlos Sousa (GWM) +2h38:40
7. Ronan Chabot (Buggy) +3h02:25
8. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +3h29:22
9. Pascal Thomasse (Buggy) +4h31:49
10. Boris Garafulic (Mini) +4h45:58