Santiago, Chile - Giniel de Villiers has once again done South Africa proud, by finishing the world's toughest rally in second place overall.
De Villiers, who won the Dakar in 2009 as part of the Volkswagen team and came third last year under the Imperial Toyota banner, reached the finish line 42 minutes behind Mini Driver Stephane Peterhansel, who's now celebrating his 11th Dakar victory.
The road was long, all 15 days and 8400km worth, and those figures don't describe the difficulty of the terrain - the desert, dunes, rocks, altitudes of up to 4000 metres and numerous obstacles that got the better of many of the 459 entrants that dared to cross the start line this year.
The rally's final stage saw competitors cover 128km of fast tracks to reach the finish line in Santiago, Chile. Mini driver Nani Roma won the stage, keeping him in fourth overall, while Orlando Terranova (BMW) and Lucio Alvarez (Toyota) filled up the podium just ahead of De Villiers.
For the South African Hilux driver, and his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz of Germany, it was a case of endurance and consistency paying off as many strong contenders from earlier in the race fell off the radar after experiencing difficulties.
Former winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz were both forced to retire at various stages of the rally, due to mechanical failures, while Robby Gordon lost over three hours after rolling his Hummer on the eighth stage. In the end, the American had to settle for 14th position. De Villiers' Imperial Toyota team-mate Duncan Vos was also forced into retirement after an accident left his Hilux badly damaged.
De Villiers, on the other hand, was in an ecstatic mood at the end of the final stage:
“Second place - that counts as victory for us! Last year we exceeded our expectations by far, and would never in our wildest dreams have believed that on the 2013 'Dakar' we would better our third place from 2012,” De Villiers exclaimed.
“The competition this year was a lot stronger than in 2012. There were numerous candidates for victory; we were the underdogs. Our reliability enabled us to not only master the 'Dakar', but also made the decisive difference.”
BIKES & QUADS
De Villiers wasn't the only South African to do us proud. In the quad category, Sarel van Biljon kept an impressive pace through most of the race, even winning the rally's final stage, and ended up 21st overall.
In the two-wheeled race, SA's Riaan van Niekerk finished 13th overall, while his KTM team-mate Darryl Curtis came home in 32nd position. Brett Cummings, meanwhile, finished 43rd on his Honda.
The bike competition was won by Frenchman Cyril Despres, ahead of fellow KTM rider Ruben Faria, while Francisco Lopez (also on a KTM) took the remaining podium spot.
STAGE 14 RESULTS - CARS
1. Nani Roma (Mini) 1h44m10
2. Orlando Terranova (BMW) +13s
3. Lucio Alvarez (Toyota) +31
4. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +1m27
5. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +2:05
6. Robby Gordon (Hummer) +2:17
7. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +2:34
8. Carlos Sousa (GWM) +3:19
9. Geoff Olholm (Toyota) +3:22s
10. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) +3:43
OVERALL RANKING - CARS
1. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) 38h32m39
2. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +42m22
3. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +1h28:22
4. Nani Roma (Mini) +1h36:43
5. Orlando Terranova (BMW) +1h49:10
6. Carlos Sousa (GWM) +2h38:16
7. Ronan Chabot (SMG) +3h18:05
8. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +3h27:44
9. Pascal Thomasse (Buggy) +4h35:32
10. Boris Garafulic (Mini) +4h45:48
- IOL Motoring Staff