Delivering his best performance of the race thus far, Giniel de Villiers grabbed second place on the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally on Saturday.
Working hard after the event’s only rest day, the South African driver covered the 425km timed section 12 minutes off the pace of Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who took the overall lead for the Peugeot team.
With former leader Stephane Peterhansel losing nearly two hours after a crash, which compounded Peugeot’s concerns following Sebastien Loeb’s withdrawal from the race earlier in the week, Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah climbed to second place behind Sainz in the general classification as defending champion Peterhansel slipped back to third.
Al-Attiyah’s teammates, De Villiers and Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke, were lying fourth and fifth overall respectively, with the local Toyota Gazoo Racing SA outfit putting up a strong fight in the chase.
Meanwhile, South African navigator Rob Howie and Argentine driver Lucio Alvarez climbed to 10th place as they continued their impressive comeback after a wobbly start to the race.
Three SA bike riders were also still in the two-wheel contest, with David Thomas settling in 45th position on his Husqvarna.
His compatriots, Donovan van der Langenberg and Willem du Toit, were lying 58th and 60th respectively on their KTM bikes, with Frenchman Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) setting the pace up front.
Sunday’s eighth stage from Uyuni to Tupiza includes a short 87km liaison and a 498km special.