Stage 11 of Dakar 2017 was another long, hot slog for the crews taking part in the world's toughest motor race. For Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, it was also a nail biting penultimate stage to the event, which saw Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz maintain their overall position despite a strong charge by MINI driver Orland Terranova.
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (#302) started the day's stage with a lead of 02:27 over Terranova, and were in fifth position overall at the start of the day.
"We expected a major assault from Terranova today,"
explained Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, from the bivouac at Río Cuarto.
"So, we stripped the Toyota Hilux of every conceivable spare part, trimming any fat we could find. In the end it certainly paid off, as we later found out Terranova had done exactly the same thing. Overall, we took a small risk, but in the end it is a good reflection of the level of competition at this late stage of the race."
The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew started the first section of the 292 km-long penultimate stage on a charge, notching up a handy 90sec advantage, but an early puncture not only halted their progress, but also gave Terranova the chance to close the gap. The Argentine driver, racing in a part of the country that was familiar to him, made the most and pushed as hard as he could.
"But then we reached the second section of the racing stage, after a long liaison,"
said De Villiers.
"We pushed quite hard, and in the end, we only lost 23 seconds to the MINI driver. We're still the best part of two minutes up on Terranova, and since tomorrow's stage is only 64 km, we should be able to maintain our overall position."
In the mean time, Nani Roma and Alex Bravo (#305) remain the leading Toyota Hilux crew, despite losing just over 15 minutes in Stage 11.
"We actually had a clean run today,"
said the popular Spaniard from the bivouac at Río Cuarto.
"But I was quite cautious in the first section, and lost most of my time there. Still, we're pretty happy with our position, and we're looking forward to the end in Buenos Aires."
Roma/Bravo remain in fourth place in the overall standings, and with just the short, final stage to go, look set to finish as the top-placed Toyota crew on Dakar 2017. Stage 12 will be run near the town of Río Cuarto, and will be followed by a liaison of 722 km that takes the finishing crews to the final podium in Buenos Aires.