Giniel’s in with a shout
It’s not only Toyota’s local motor sport division that has a lot to say about the credentials of 39-year-old Stellenbosch resident Giniel de Villiers in the build up to the 2012 Dakar Rally. A few big-wigs for the events official website (www.dakar.com) also feel our local boy is in with a chance of a spot on the podium come January.
“Alongside Stéphane Peterhansel, Giniel de Villiers has been the most consistently high-performing driver in the Dakar Rally over the last 10 years. After driving for the Nissan and Volkswagen teams, this year he has joined forces with Toyota.
“Behind the scenes of the major teams, speculation has already started concerning the main contenders’ chances of winning the next Dakar Rally. In his accustomed way, Giniel de Villiers moves discreetly, but his confidence and experience make him one of the favourites in the race to the finishing line.
“Since first competing in the Dakar (in 2003), the South African driver has only once failed to make the Top 10 and came second last year. The withdrawal of the Race Touaregs, which got the upper hand in the last three editions, has reignited the debate surrounding this category.
“In this context, the 2009 winner jumped on board the ambitious project developed by Toyota Motorsport in South Africa, which joined forces with South African company Hallspeed to provide already highly competitive Hilux pickups for De Villiers and four-time South African champion Duncan Vos for the Dakar 2012.
“’It’s very exciting, as the cars have great potential. Toyota really has chosen the best time to get involved in the event. We tested the cars in Namibia and collected a lot of information after the Morocco Rally, which featured a third Hilux from the Belgian Overdrive team driven by Argentine Orlando Terranova. We are not yet on a level with Volkswagen, but are not far off it,’ explains Giniel.
“Ever cautious, the Imperial Toyota team’s new driver has set himself modest objectives for the launch of this vehicle: ‘This is a new challenge and a new chapter for me. I believe we really have a chance of making it to the podium. But you never know what to expect with the Dakar.’”
De Villiers’ Dakar Rally record:
2008 event cancelled
His list of achievements doesn’t end there either. In addition he was the 2001 South African off road champion and has a number of victories in FIA Cross Country World Cup and Dakar Series events (like the Morocco Rally, the Transiberico Rally and the Rally dos Sertoes).
There’s no doubting his credentials then. Now we wait as the teams go through final stages of testing a preparation before heading off to Argentina for the starting ceremony at Mar del Plata on 1 January.
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