An inspired performance by privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) on their first Dakar Rally sees them in 20th place overall after the first four days of the 2014 edition of the world’s premier cross country race.
The South Africans are among the 117 survivors of the 154 crews who started in the car category in Rosario, Argentina, on Sunday. Not only are they still in the race, but they have improved their overall position each day and recorded their best special stage result on Wednesday when they were classified as 18th, 45 minutes behind winners Carlos Sainz of Spain and Timo Gottschalk of Germany (SMG Buggy). The racing section of the 868-kilometre stage, the longest in the rally so far, was a daunting 657 kilometres, equivalent to one and a half rounds of the South African cross country championship.
They are competing in the same Toyota Hilux in which fellow South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz finished second in the 2013 Dakar Rally as part of the official Toyota South Africa team. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are currently lying sixth overall in an evolution version of the DMack/Barden bakkie, while Toyota Imperial team-mates Leeroy Poulter, also competing in his first Dakar, and Rob Howie are 29th overall.
“It was a long, hot day today. Juan and I are really enjoying ourselves, although it is very hard work,” said a Rundle. “The car is performing magnificently, although the new gearbox the technical crew fitted overnight after we lost fifth gear on Tuesday’s stage is not sounding 100 per cent. We’ll be looking into this before tomorrow’s start.”
Sainz and Gottschalk are the overall leaders with nine of the 13 stages remaining, with a time of 14h 52m 47s, and are 2m 6s ahead of Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (MINI) and a further 4m 52s in front of Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (MINI). Rundle and Mohr are 2h 57m 46s behind the leaders.
Thursday’s stage five from Chilecito to Tucuman is the longest of the rally at 912 kilometres, with 385 of liaison and 527 of racing. The special stage will be mostly sand with high temperatures expected as the competitors tackle off-track sections all day. At the bivouac in Tucuman, the candidates for the final podium will have been whittled down to a select few, as many of them will no longer be a part of the elite group.