Joan Roma and navigator Alex Haro dropped eight minutes to team-mate De Villiers through the early kilometres, but were safe in fourth overall. The Spanish crew took no risks through the last kilometres and maintained their position.
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz began the day in a comfortable fifth and were fifth fastest through the first section of the special. They went on to record the fourth quickest time and hold fifth place by just 2min 03sec heading into the final day.
Toyota rookie Rautenbach enters the overall top 10
Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and his South African co-driver Robert Howie were seventh through the first 119km and the dunes around San Juan in the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hiluxes. They continued their impressive pace to the finish and the eighth quickest time enabled the Dakar first-timer to climb into ninth place in the overall standings for the first time.
The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar were pushed down to 16th overall at the start of the 11th stage after Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen recovered from his delays into San Juan and completed the stage. Van Loon enjoyed a strong run through section one in eighth place and finished the stage in an impressive seventh to move up to 14th overall.
Alejandro Yacopini and Daniel Merlo began the day in 21st overall in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. They were running 18th after the shorter opening section of the special and a strong performance lifted them into the top 20.
The Chinese crew of He Zhitao and Kai Zhao reached San Juan in 35th overall in their Boundless Yong Racing Toyota run by Overdrive Racing and safely negotiated section one of the stage. They were 38th at WP5 and firmly on course for the finish at 23.35 CET.
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TODAY AND TOMORROW
The day’s stage was short by Dakar standards and featured only 292km of competition and included a crossing of the dunes near San Juan in the first section of 119km, before a liaison of 367km took teams to the more traditional WRC-style flowing tracks in the Córdoba region and a second part of 173km. A third link guides teams to the bivouac in the city of Río Cuarte.
The final stage on Saturday is only 64km in length and takes place close to the night halt, but then teams have to tackle a long road section back to the ceremonial finish in Buenos Aires. They can expect large crowds, congestion and nervous moments on the 786km link via Villa Maria, the city of Rosario and the towns of Zarate and Campana to the finish in Buenos Aires.