Toyota’s Roma, De Villiers and Rautenbach confirm fourth, fifth and ninth in Dakar Rally

Giniel de Villers,Toyota Hilux, Overdrive Racing, Dakar Rally 2017

Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa reached the ceremonial finish of the 2017 Dakar Rally with six of their original eight Toyota Hiluxes well positioned in the overall classification.

After one of the most dramatic Dakar rallies in history, thanks to inclement weather conditions, vastly differing temperatures, high altitude and daunting navigation, the Spanish crew of Joan Roma and navigator Alex Haro headed the team home in an Overdrive Racing car running with support from Monster Energy, Power Electronics and Air Europa.

The duo were careful through the final stage to confirm a comfortable fourth overall behind the record-breaking 13-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel, nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb and five-time winner Cyril Despres.

Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz heading into the final day under a little pressure from Argentina’s Orlando Terranova. But De Villiers retained his composure to beat the Mendoza driver by 40 seconds and secure fifth place by the slender margin, in Dakar terms, of 2min 43sec.

Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and his South African co-driver Robert Howie ended their first Dakar Rally together in style with the fifth quickest time on the last special and that just emphasised the progress the former WRC driver has made in such a short time. It enabled the crew to bring the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Hiluxes to the finish in ninth place and gave Conrad the ‘Performance of the Day’ by rally officials.

Van Loon sixth fastest on final Dakar stage

The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar set some impressive stage times over the last few days of the Dakar in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux and SS12 was no exception, with Van Loon carding the sixth fastest stage of 29min 57sec to secure 14th overall.

Alejandro Yacopini and Daniel Merlo began the last stage in their native Argentina from 19th overall. There were no major dramas to follow and Yacopini reached Buenos Aires inside the top 20.

The Chinese crew of He Zhitao and Kai Zhao began the final special stage in 34th in the general classification after running behind their team-mates for long periods during the second week. They fulfilled the objective of finishing the event in the Boundless Yong Rally Team car run by Overdrive Racing in 34th overall.

Additional support for Overdrive Racing came from Power Electronics and Kappa clothing.

Drivers have hit problems on final Dakar stages before, but the special stage was only 64km in length and took place close to Río Cuarte. That left a monster of a road liaison to cope with of 786km from the stage finish to Buenos Aires via the town of Villa Maria and the city of Rosario. The ceremonial finish then took place outside the Argentina Automobile Club (ACA) in the Argentine capital.

What they said

Jean-Marc Fortin, CEO of Overdrive Racing: “It was a very difficult Dakar and one that we will all remember for a long time. I would like to say thanks to everyone in our team for their hard work in the face of very difficult weather conditions and long days and nights in extreme conditions. We showed that the Toyota Hilux was competitive from the start of the Dakar and it was a huge disappointment for the whole team that we lost Nasser (Al-Attiyah) so early after he had taken the lead. Our other drivers did a superb job and Nani and Giniel reached the finish in fourth and fifth places. Conrad showed considerable potential with his stage performances over the last few days and we are delighted to see Erik Van Loon, Alejandro Yacopini and He Zhitao at the finish in Buenos Aires.”

Giniel de Villers – Car 302: “Obviously we’re a little bit disappointed, but you have to give big congratulations to our rivals because they deserve their success. All in all it was a very tough Dakar with plenty of navigation, which is good. It was a pity that two stages were cancelled.”

Nani Roma – Car 305: “Well, the contest is over. It seems like yesterday that we were in Asuncion before starting the adventure. I guess we have had good adventures and misadventures. I am happy, although I suppose you are never happy if you don’t win. We started every stage trying to do our best. This race is never over until the last kilometre. We knew that fighting the Peugeots was a difficult task, but that was the fun part. If Toyota continues like this and we work a little more, we can win this race. Fourth is the first place that is not on the podium. But after some of the issues we had, this is a good result.”

Photo: Overdrive Racing