Overdrive Toyota’s Lucio Alvarez and Toyota Imperial South Africa Team driver Giniel de Villiers held third and sixth in the overall standings of the Dakar Rally after the third 243km special stage through some treacherous sand dunes between Pisco and Nazca in Peru on Monday.
The Argentinean and the South African recorded the fourth and 15th quickest times with their respective co-drivers Ronnie Graue and Dirk von Zitzewitz. Alvarez duly climbed from eighth to third position, but De Villiers relinquished his podium placing and slipped to sixth after navigational problems.
“It was super hard today and it began with the oil pressure indicator light on,” said Alvarez. “We knew it could have been the sensor and we were not too concerned. Then the engine temperature began to rise. Without stopping, Ronnie found the fuse had blown on the radiator and replaced it. The dunes were particularly complicated to cross, very technical, sandy and heavy and many of the soft dunes were broken.”
The leader board was turned on its head even before the start of the day’s stage. Carlos Sainz had complained that a faulty GPS Sentinel system was to blame for his navigational delays on the second stage. He appealed, was handed time back by race officials and regained the overall lead by 5min 05sec from Stéphane Peterhansel. The decision also demoted De Villiers to third place and Alvarez slipped to eighth.
Monday’s special began a short distance from Pisco and meandered through the sand dunes of the Ica region to finish north of Nazca. The most difficult dune crossings were close to the start with around 55km of treacherous sand to pass after 21km.
De Villiers dropped 25 minutes to the leaders through the first two waypoints with navigational woes, as Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Robbie Gordon ran as virtual stage leaders to the 90km point. Al-Attiyah went on to snatch the stage win and moved into second position, 6min 33sec behind Peterhansel. Guerlain Chicherit and Ronan Chabot had been running well but lost time and Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc crashed out of contention in the sand dunes after 40km.
“Everything was going really well until about kilometre 65,” said De Villiers. “Then we got lost in the dunes and went back and forth to try and find the way. We did 18km more than we needed to and that has cost us the time.”
Australian Geoff Olholm and British co-driver Jonathon Aston were classified 23rd at the start of the day in the Cairns Coconut Resort-supported Toyota and the 11th quickest time was enough for them to climb an impressive five places to 18th.
The Polish duo of former ski jumping champion Adam Malysz and navigator Rafal Marton started day three in 22nd overall with their Overdrive Racing Toyota and finished the day a place higher in 21st.
Venezuelans Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses moved up 86 positions in the overall rankings on the Pisco loop stage in their Team Azimut Toyota Hilux and began the third stage from 60th overall. They were in tremendous form again through stage three and the 12th quickest time propelled the South Americans into a provisional 33rd overall.
South African Duncan Vos and Robert Howie benefited from time penalties for a rival and were elevated to 12th at the start of the day in the second Toyota Imperial South Africa Hilux, but problems on the stage cost them dearly and they fell back to 25th.
Szymon Ruta and co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter climbed a place to 35th overall before the stage started in their Orlen-backed Hilux, but were badly delayed in the dunes. Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn and Belgian co-driver Eddy Chevallier began the day in 17th position in their Toyota Hilux, but they were also badly delayed early in the stage in their Overdrive Toyota.
Overdrive Racing has received additional valuable support from sponsors Toyota Belgium, Mistral, Donaldson Filtration and Michelin.
The Overdrive Racing Toyota chassis were built in Belgium in conjunction with Toyota Motorsport South Africa and Hallspeed and are powered by the 4.6-litre V8 engine that conforms to the latest FIA regulations. Overdrive is based at Villers-le-Bouillet, near Huy, in Belgium.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), is the longest day of the rally so far and the route heads into the uplands of Peru from Nazca near the coast to the city of Arequipa, situated over 2,300 metres above sea level. Arequipa is surrounded by the volcanic Andean peaks of Misti and Pichu Pichu Chachani, although the special stage will run within close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, at lower altitude, before the liaison section heads into the Andes foothills and on to Arequipa.
Overall positions after leg 3 – Pisco to Nazca, 243km (@14.30hrs)
1. Stephane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 5hrs 34min 26sec