De Villiers wins stage 10 for VW

By: Mike Nathan Autos  11-11-2011

South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers won the 10th stage of the 2011 Dakar Rally in his diesel-powered Volkswagen Race Touareg 3 on Wednesday.  It was the 38-year-old Stellenbosch resident’s 13th stage win in his eighth Dakar and his first since he gave the diesel-powered Touareg its first Dakar victory in 2009.
Patience and a conservative, safe approach to one of the trickiest stages of the event paid off for the South African and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz as his closest rivals and team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah and defending champion Carlos Sainz made mistakes and lost time bogged down in the soft sand of the Fiambala.  De Villiers strengthened his third place overall with three stages remaining as he closed the gap to leader Al-Attiyah by 8 min 54 sec and took 18 min 13 sec out of second-placed Sainz.
De Villiers completed the 176-km special stage between Copiapo and Chilecito in Argentina in a time of 2 hr 53 min 15 sec, followed by the BMW X3s of Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc (+4 min 23 sec) and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel (+5 min 38 sec).  Qatar’s Al-Attiyah was fourth and Spain’s Sainz fifth.  American Mark Miller and South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford finished eighth after losing over an hour stuck in the dunes.
Al-Attiyah, who has won three stages, leads overall by 12 min 37 sec from Sainz, victorious on five stages, who is 34 min 20 sec ahead of De Villiers.  Volkswagen has failed to win just one stage with Peterhansel taking the honours on stage five.  The Frenchman is fourth overall, 52 min 35 sec behind De Villiers.  Miller and Pitchford are fifth overall, 3 hr 40 min 43 sec in arrears.
“Today’s result shows just how easily things can change on the Dakar,” said a delighted De Villiers.  “We know the Fiambala is a tricky stage so we decided not to push too hard and just maintain a good pace, like we’ve done throughout the rally.  You have to treat the Dakar with great respect.  We got all the navigation points right and made no mistakes.”
“We lost over an hour when we got stuck in the dunes and then the car wouldn’t start because it was too hot,” explained Pitchford.  “Unfortunately we lost time to Holowczyc, who has closed to within nine minutes of us, but we’re good for tomorrow and are confident we can defend our fifth position overall over the final stages.”  
With three special stages and some 1 300 km of racing remaining before the finish in Buenos Aires on Saturday, the battle is far from over and any one of the top three could mount the top step of the podium.
Thursday’s special stage is the longest of the rally at 622 km and will take the surviving competitors from Chilecito to San Juan via many little sand dunes and mountain tracks

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