Lima, Peru - Wednesday’s third stage of the 2019 Dakar Rally dealt a huge blow to South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, who lost four-and-a-half hours after hitting a rock that was hidden in loose sand.
The pair, who had taken the overall lead after the second stage, lost all oil pressure after the impact, which destroyed the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux bakkie’s sump guard.
“We knew that we’d had a big hit, so we kept a close eye on all the systems, and it wasn’t long before we knew we were in trouble. We stopped and tried to affect our own repairs, but in the end, we had to wait for assistance,” De Villiers said after the stage.
He now sits in 40th place overall, 4h23m behind the leader, but all is not lost for the Proudly South African Toyota Gazoo Racing outfit as its other prime contender, Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, retook the overall lead on Wednesday's 331km stage (from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa) after finishing second, just 3m26s behind stage winner Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini).
Al-Attiyah was followed home by Jakub Przygonski, Yazeed Al Rajhi and Nani Roma, all of the X-Raid team.
Tough day for Loeb and Sainz
Tuesday’s stage winner Sebastien Loeb could only manage 11th in Stage 3, after opening the road for his rivals, which dropped him down to eighth overall, but with a deficit of 37 minutes, there is still plenty of time to catch up.
Last year’s winner Carlos Sainz (Peugeot) suffered a similar fate to De Villiers on Wednesday, losing more than three hours after damaging his front left wheel, relegating him to 36th overall.
South Africa’s other four-wheeled contender, Shameer Variawa (SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara) made steady progress, moving up from 67th to 54th in the overall rankings after finishing the stage in 49th place. He and navigator Zaheer Bodhanya overcome a few extraordinary challenges along the way, missing a waypoint and getting stuck on a dune, but the pair were ultimately pleased with their result.
Barreda out of contention
There was also disappointment in the two wheel class, when frontrunner Joan Barreda of Spain was forced to retire after getting stuck in treacherous terrain. French rider Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) won the stage, while Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) took the overall lead.
Some excellent progress was made by South African entrant Kenneth Gilbert (Husqvarna), who moved from 40th to 27th in the overall standings after finishing the stage in 28th position, while Botswana’s Ross Branch moved from 30th to 25th position on the log.
South Africa’s no-assistance Original Class entrant Stuart Gregory finished in 80th place.
Sources: Reuters, Toyota SA, Dakar.com & Motorsport Media