On a day that saw the petrol-engined, normally aspirated Toyota Hilux suffer more than the turbo-diesel cars on a stage that was run at an average altitude of over 3 500 metres above sea level, South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) achieved their best stage result of the Dakar Rally on Sunday and improved their overall position to a high of 19.
Special stage seven, a 533-kilometre loop from Salta to Salta, signalled the end of the Argentine section of the 9 500 kilometre 13-stage rally as the action now moves into Chile for the remaining six stages. It was fast and dusty and held in mainly overcast conditions after heavy rains in the mountains north west of Salta.
The Dakar rookies started 28th after a remarkably accomplished first week and were more than satisfied with their best stage result so far and nine-place improvement in the general classification.
Winners of the stage were Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk of Germany (SMG Buggy), who finished 4m 45s ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (MINI). Third were defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in another MINI (+7m 26s). Rundle and Mohr were 33m 01s in arrears.
Spain’s Nani Roma and Michel Perin of France (MINI) remain in the overall lead with an advantage of 31m 53s over Peterhansel and Cottret (MINI) and 48m 23s ahead of South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux). Rundle and Mohr are second best of the three South African-built and entered Toyota Hilux 4x4s and lie 6h 07m 22s behind the leaders. De Villiers’ South African team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie are 30th overall and 10h 10m 18s in arrears.
“We had a good rest on our day off on Saturday and felt strong today after what was a very tough week. We just didn’t have the power to go any faster and it was virtually foot flat throughout the racing section,” said a relaxed Rundle on the final day in the Salta bivouac. “It was an encouraging start to the final week. There are some long stages ahead and we still have a long way to go. If we can improve a little each day we will be very happy.”
Monday sees the competitors crossing the Andes Mountains into Chile via the Paso de Jama at an altitude of nearly 4 900 metres. A 522-kilometre liaison section from Salta in Argentina will take them to the first of the six stages in Chile, a 302-kilometre racing section to Calama. It is described in the route handbook as characterised by fast, narrow sections and few overtaking opportunities.
Thomas Rundle acknowledges his sponsors and Dakar team partners DMack Tyres, Barden, Liqui Moly, Willard Powertech, DeWalt, Godrich Toyota, Cambist, Pioneer Plastics, Spiralsoft, Itec - Pretoria East, Chemvulc, EyeGym, Rudy Project Eyewear, Ruwacon, Vibro Bricks and Paving, Autozone, Olympus Panelbeaters, Maxwell Advertising & Design, PVM Nutritional Sciences, Steam Generation Africa, Ultimate Powder Coaters, Marina Colonna South Africa, Donaldson Filtration Solutions, Steed Bekker Waterproofing, Chopper Worx, KEC Electrical, Jodan Construction, Ah + A Electrical, Stargas, 4C Technology, PH Bagale, Clippa Sales/Mentos, FH Chamberlain Trading.
For more information please go to www.thomasrundle.com.