The spectacular Dakar Series: Rally China got under way on Sunday, September 24 near the Chinese city of Alxa. Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz were second-fastest on the opening stage of 57 km; with teammates Lucio Alvarez and Cacha Rodríguez, in the second of the team’s Toyota Hilux race cars fifth on the day.
“It was a good start for us,” said De Villiers after completing the stage. “The route was pretty much 50 km of dunes, and we hardly reached 4th gear. But even so, the Hilux ran perfectly, and we posted a good time.”
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz were the third car off the mark, but overhauled the crew ahead of them to cross the line in 01:12:17 – just 13 seconds behind the stage winner, China’s Aorigele/Qin.
“More than an hour to cover 57 km says a lot,” explained Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “The terrain was extreme, and the speeds were low throughout the stage. Navigation was also a challenge in the dunes, but we are very happy to have come through a tricky opener in second place overall.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Argentine crew, Alvarez/Rodríguez, experienced difficulties with their GPS unit. The unit, supplied by the race organisers, failed some 8 km into the stage, and made life extremely difficult for the Argentine pairing. Even so, they finished the stage just 04:04 adrift, and well within reach of the early leaders.
Stage 2, which is scheduled for Monday, September 25, is 157 km in length. The looped stage starts and finishes at the FB Festival near Alxa, China, and will see a mix of terrain types including rocky tracks and many dunes.
“Giniel and Dirk will be the second car on the road tomorrow, and we’re certainly looking forward to the challenge,” concluded Hall. “Our Chinese hosts have pulled out all the stops to make this event grandiose and spectacular, and I’m certain tomorrow’s stage will fit that theme.”
The Dakar Series: Rally China is a 7-stage event, organised by the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO). The company is also the organiser of the Dakar Rally