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Six SA racers to watch at Dakar Rally

Motorsport
When the 2017 edition of the Dakar Rally sets off from the Paraguayan capital city Asuncion on January 2, South African race fans will have eyes pinned on local hero Giniel de Villers who’s entered the world’s toughest race for the 15th time.

Giniel, who won the Dakar in 2009 with VW and has podiumed seven times, will be making his sixth attempt to win in a locally-built Toyota Gazoo Hilux – and next year’s running could be the Capetonian’s best shot at doing it.

New rules mean the Hilux will have more power than ever, and the Gazoo team under the rule of Glyn Hall has tweaked and tuned the four-wheel drive Hilux’s suspension to its most competitive state yet. And, even if Giniel can’t manage the win, the South African Gazoo outfit could still seal the deal with its new hired gun, Qatari racing superstar Nasser Al Attiyah in a second Red Bull-sponsored Hilux.

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Giniel's Gazoo Hilux will lead the South African charge.David Thomas will also be racing in January.As will Joey Evans.

But, further down the order, there are five other South African racers for us to keep tabs on during the epic 12 day offroad trek in South America which spans three countries and over 10 000km.

Joey Evans, a Joburg-based motorcycle rider, has made his lifelong dream come true by entering his first Dakar with the help of KTM South Africa, Subtech Ryder, Cycra and many other sponsors. The 41-year-old’s ride will, however, be a little tougher than the rest of the 145 bike field because after a harescramble crash in 2007 he was left paralyzed from just below the chest down. Because the injury was an ‘incomplete’ spinal cord break, Evans has recovered over the years and can walk today, but he can’t feel temperature below his chest and needs a catheter to pee. Check out Joey’s website at www.fromparatodakar.co.za for his full story.

Cape Town’s David Thomas is also entered in the Bikes category, and will be riding a USN/Aucor-sponsored Husqvarna 450. Thomas has a long history on two wheels, with some international success as a downhill mountain bike racer, but he’s been a dedicated motorcyclist for over 20 years with numerous enduro titles, five Roof of Africa entries and a five-day Red Bull Romaniacs extreme rally to his name. Visit the 40-year-old Dakar first timer’s website at www.journeytodakar.co.za.

SA’s Walter Terblanche will be racing atop a Van Der Velden Motoren-sponsored KTM 450. This 33-year-old Dakar rookie works on an oil rig off the coast of Angola, but when on terra firma spends time training for Dakar in both Swaziland and the Netherlands.

South Africa’s sole competitor in the trucks category is Sean Berriman, who brings a wealth of Dakar knowledge and a mechanical background to his three-man crew. The Las Vegas-based Durbanite will copilot between two German team-mates in the number 543 MAN truck.

Zimbawean Conrad Rautenbach, who has six years of World Rally Championship experience, and who filled in for Leeroy Poulter at the final rounds of the local Donaldson Cross Country Championship in a Gazoo Hilux, is also entered in Dakar 2017. Rautenbach will drive an Imperial-backed Hilux (technically it’s a third Gazoo car but with different livery) alongside Poulter’s usual South African co-driver Rob Howie.

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