Competitors race over hundreds of kilometres over some of the most gruelling terrain that South America has to offer. Toyota South Africa has been competing for a number of years, with the ultimate goal of being victories in this year's event.
It has been a tough few days for the team and the proudly South African built Hilux's. The stages have claimed many competitors.
Stage 5 consisted of 268km of special stage and 666km of soft sand dune hell. Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Bernhard ten Brinke and his navigator Michel Périn not only recorded a perfectly clean stage, but also kept the pace with Mr Dakar himself, Stephane Peterhansel, and his Peugeot over terrain that was much more suited to the French buggy. In the end, Ten Brinke/Périn ended the stage with a deficit of only five minutes to the Peugeot.
Ten Brinke’s charge sees the Dutch driver move up in third place in the overall standings, behind Peterhansel and the second Peugeot of Carlos Sainz. Unfortunately, Peugeot’s third car in the hands of nine times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb was forced to withdraw from the race after his long-time navigator, Daniel Elena, injured his back early on Stage 5.
Toyota Gazoo Racing's South African hero, Giniel de Villiers and his German navigator Dirk Von Zitzewitz got stuck shortly after starting the stage. As it turned out, many of the top drivers lost time in the same area.
“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted, but thankfully we didn’t lose too much time today,” explained de Villiers from Arequipa. “With that said, we finished the day 13 minutes behind Peterhansel, and if we had not gotten stuck near the start, we may well have finished much closer to him.”
Despite this hiccup, de Villiers and Von Zitzewitz posted the third-fastest time on the stage, some five minutes ahead of Sainz, even though they suffered a puncture mid-stage. This result sees the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa crew move up into 5th place in the overall standings.
Things didn’t look good for Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and his French navigator Mathieu Baumel. The current holders of the FIA Cross-Country World Cup started the day on a charge and quickly made up some time over the leaders. Unfortunately ,their gearbox developed a problem and they lost some ground again.
“Luckily the stage was divided into two sections, and we were able to catch up with our technical crew in between the sections,” said Al Attiyah. “The crew did an amazing job to replace our gearbox in just twenty minutes – but that meant that we’d lost even more time.”
Thankfully they quickly found their rhythm again and clawed back some time throughout the remainder of the stage. They ended up going fifth-fastest on Stage 5, losing only 16 minutes to Peterhansel This sees the pair in fourth place overall, making it 3-4-5 for Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa after five stages of racing.
STAGE 5 RESULTS:
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 5: