The all-South African Broadlink KTM Rally Team toughed it out on Monday's third stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally and gave a good account of themselves. Matters went far from smoothly for the Imperial Toyota Hilux team, however.
While two-wheel stars Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk put in steady performances, on four wheels Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, second overnight, suffered navigational problems, while Duncan Vos and Rob Howie were forced out of the race after damaging their roll cage.
Curtis reached the overnight bivouac in Nazca in 22nd place on his factory KTM 450 Rally, leaving him in 13th place overall, 11 minutes behind the leader and defending champion Cyril Despres on another factory KTM. The stage winner was Francisco Lopez of Chile on a KTM, which moved him up to second overall behind Despres.
Climbed 13 places
Van Niekerk, riding in his first Dakar, had a good day in the dunes and finished the special stage in 20th position. He climbed 13 places to 25th overall, 12 minutes behind his team-mate and 23 minutes in arrears of Despres.
"The stage was similar to yesterday's," said Curtis, "lots of sand, a mixture of fast dirt tracks with fesh fesh (fine, powdery sand) and dunes. A really fast day.
"I started sixth and rode all day with David Casteu of France on a Yamaha. He's a master and a good navigator and we managed to find the right way and ended up riding into the finish first on the road. Some of the riders who started behind us made up a lot of time on us.
"I'm quite happy. I had a safe day and am looking forward to tomorrow's stage, which is a big one."
'A very exciting day for me'
Van Niekerk was pleased with his showing. "A very exciting day for me," he said. "I started 38th and had a lot of tracks to follow, so navigating wasn't much of an issue for me.
"I'm happy with my finish position and looking forward to tomorrow's stage. I'm expecting it to be a lot harder with lots of fesh fesh."
Vos and Howie, who finished 10th overall in their first Dakar Rally in 2012, lost over an hour on the 243 kilometre special stage after they rolled, but they still managed to finish in 48th place. They were officially classified as 25th overall, but after inspection of the damage by the Toyota Motorsport team in the overnight bivouac in Nazca, it was evident the roll cage was too badly damaged for Vos and Howie to continue.
Team Manager Glyn Hall commented: "A very tough day for the team today. The stage was similar to yesterday with many dunes, but the race only really starts tomorrow.
"Giniel and Dirk were running well and with their pace they should have been right on [race leader Stephane] Peterhansel. Unfortunately they battled with the navigation and lost nearly half an hour. But the race is still long and anything can happen. Giniel is very happy with the car and says we will be fighting tomorrow again.
"Sadly Duncan and Rob had an accident while trying to pass a truck. Unfortunately the roll cage has been damaged in a crucial area and for safety reasons we have unfortunately had to withdraw the car. Both Duncan and Rob are fine, but obviously very sad that they are unable to continue."
De Villiers, the 2009 champion and the third place finisher last year, said: "Today was anything but good for us! It wasn't the car's fault. It's just that we made a huge navigational mistake, which added almost 20 kilometres to our route."
Looking ahead, he added: "This is just the third special and there's still a long road before us, so we'll stay focused and try to do much better tomorrow. In the last few days we've already seen that things can change overnight at the Dakar."
The stage was won by 2011 Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Lucas Cruz of Spain in a Buggy, who improved their overall position from seventh to second position.
Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue of Argentina kept the Toyota flag flying high with fourth place on Monday's special stage in their South African-built Toyota Hilux and are now third overall behind Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, in first, and Al-Attiyah/Cruz, in second.
The 2013 Dakar Rally covers 8 400 kilometres in 15 days. It finishes in Santiago, Chile on 20 January.