Arek Kwiecień, TERENOWO.PL for Rallyraid.net : Could you give away what has happened in 2011? How did you feel after the decision of Volkswagen Motorsport? How did you find Toyota Imperial? (or maybe they found you?)
GINIEL DE VILLIERS: I was obviously disappointed that Volkswagen withdrew from the Dakar. We only received final confirmation of this decision in June, which did not leave much time to find something else. The Imperial Toyota entry came together in October and I am very pleased to be working again with Glyn Hall and his team at Toyota Motorsport. He was in charge of Nissan Motorsport when I won my four South African touring car championships and an off road championship and competed in the Dakar Rally. This is the beginning of a new challenge for me.
You have exchanged VW Race Touareg with diesel engine for a brand new Toyota Hilux with petrol engine. How do you feel with that? Could you compare your previous and present car?
Unlike the VW Touareg, the Toyota Hilux is a new car and untested on the Dakar. It has shown great potential in the South African off road championship and also in testing in the Namib Desert. Of course, the petrol engine is a little different to the diesel, but the car is very easy to drive. With the new regulation in 2013, the playing field will be more level between the petrol- and diesel-engined cars.
What do you think about your Toyota? What are the good points and flaws of Hilux? Do you find any similarities with your Nissans from previous years?
The Hilux is a very good car. We still need to do more testing to get to the level of the top cars now, but we are not far off. It’s a lot different to the Nissans we drove then, but Glyn Hall has used all his experience in the Dakar and 10 years of competing in the South African championship to build a strong contender.
Everybody perceives you as one of the main favourite of Dakar 2012. Some experts say that only you can compete with X-Raid Team. What is your opinion?
I hope we will be able to compete with X-Raid, but I think on pure performance we are not quite there yet. We’re in a new car that’s in its first Dakar, so we have to be realistic. It would be a bit much to expect to win first time out. A top five finish would be very good and with a bit of luck we could get on to the podium.
Who will win Dakar Rally 2012? Who will be the most demanding rival for you? What is your opinion on your rivals from MINI, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Great Wall…? What do you think about the polish driver – Krzysztof Hołowczyc?
The competition is always stiff in the Dakar and this year will be no different. Stephane Peterhansel is our main rival in the Mini. Krzysztof is a very good driver and has had some good races this year, so he will have a lot of confidence. Of course there are many other good drivers, so it is very difficult to predict a winner. For sure, X-Raid is the big favourite.
“Hołek” said that he misses Volkswagen because it was a tough and demanding rival. It would be still a pleasure for him to compete with VW cars. Do you agree with his opinion? Is MINI All4 Racing better then Volkswagen Race Touareg?
For sure it’s not good that Volkswagen stopped, but that is how it is. The Touareg was the best car, but X-Raid has a very strong package this year.
Have you planned out your strategy for Dakar Rally 2012?
No, not yet. We will decide as the rally progresses.
You have been participating in Dakar Rally for many years. Is there anything that can surprise you in Dakar? Do you fear anything in 2012 edition, for example. unknown tracks in Peru?
The Dakar Rally always has surprises, so I don’t expect anything different. For sure Peru will be a new challenge.
What are you going to do after the finish line of Dakar 2012? How are you going to rest?
It depends on our result, but I haven’t planned anything yet.
And what are you going to do during the last weeks before the start of Dakar 2012?
Some training and rest.
What can we wish you?
A safe race, for all the competitors.
So we wish you a safe race! And of course – good luck 🙂