Dakar Rally veteran Giniel de Villiers bounced back from recent setbacks to lead a generally powerful day for South African crews in Stage 9 of the great race in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
It was a particularly solid session for Toyota Gazoo Racing because De Villiers was followed home by teammates Henk Lategan and Nasser Al-Attiyah in a 1-2-3 for the South African outfit.
De Villiers, who suffered penalties and mechanical issues earlier in the competition, picked up his 18th stage win in Dakar history during a 287 km loop around Wadi Ad-Dawasir in the south of the Arabian kingdom.
He finished nine seconds ahead of equally-impressive compatriot Lategan and sits fifth overall, thanks to his largest penalty of five hours being scrapped after a successful appeal.
Qatari star Al-Attiyah leads the overall car standings by 39 minutes from France’s Sebastian Loeb in a BRX Hunter and by roughly 59 minutes from Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi in a Toyota Overdrive vehicle.
More good South African news was that Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) did well to take ninth place in the stage, while Shameer Variawa (Toyota Gazoo) grabbed 11th spot.
In the bikes category, Honda rider José Florimo from Chile won the day as Austria’s Matthias Walkner moved ahead overall for KTM.
Aaron Mare (Hero Motosports) finished 21st yesterday and sits 17th overall as the highest placed rider from South Africa.
However, young KwaZulu-Natal rookie Bradley Cox had a relatively slow day on his Bas Dakar KTM machine.
The 23-year-old son of off-road great Alfie Cox came home 90th and slipped to 27th overall.
Wednesday’s stage 10 entails 375 kilometres of racing from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to Bisha. Race organisers say it’s one of the most scenic routes and likely to be one of the fastest, as well.
The famous rally’s 44th edition concludes in Jeddah on Friday after 12 stages, which were divided by a rest day last Saturday in the capital city of Riyadh.