Villiers Storms Into Dakar Lead

Posted on Jul 24, 2009 by

Mauritania – Giniel de Villiers took his first Dakar stage victory of 2007 yesterday and in the process also claimed the overall lead from his Volkswagen Race Touareg teammate, Carlos Sainz, as Mauritanian sandstorms and high winds forced the organizers to change the first of the two scheduled marathons in the African country from 542km to 407.6 for safety reasons.

Some crews faltered, some had mechanical issues, some got lost and while some of the competitors recovered, others saw their dream of reaching Dakar has ended on the seventh stage in this year ‘s cross-country rally.

Finnish racer Ari Vatanen has seen ups and downs on the 29th Edition of Dakar. Yesterday was the worst as it ended his hopes of getting to Lake Rose faded for the four-time Dakar winner. The Volkswagen Touareg went up in flames 344km into yesterdays special. Both Vatanen and navigator Fabrizia Pons were unharmed.

Mitsubishi ‘s Joan “Nani” Roma with his co-pilot Lucas Cruz did several flips in their Pajero near the 300km mark. They were uninjured and were able to return once they made the needed repairs, but fell to 23rd position. Roma had moved from two wheels to four in 2005, and the 2004 Dakar Bike winner had been seventh overall after stage six.

De Villiers and co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewz kept the pressure on the Mitsubishi runners with a fine performance again, as the South African driver clocked a time of four hours and 46 seconds in his Volkswagen Motorsport Touareg.

Peterhansel, the legendary eight-time Dakar winner (two in the Car class), knows the challenges that Mauritania has to offer. In yesterday’s special, the French racer set the early pace with his co-pilot Jean-Paul Cottret. The Team Repsol Mitsubishi Pajero finished second by two minutes and 46 seconds and has moved into third, although still almost 25 minutes off the leader.

Third on the stage and adrift of his teammate by nearly five minutes, the day cost Sainz and his navigator Michel Perin the overall lead. De Villiers now has a slight edge of 1:39 over the Spaniard in the overall standings. Meanwhile, former third-place runner Carlos Sousa lost some two hours, falling to ninth, while fourth-placed Luc Alphand fell to fifth behind his teammate Peterhansel.

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