Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, driving a South African-built Toyota Hilux 4x4 for the Toyota Imperial Team, finished second overall in the Dakar Rally, which ended in Santiago, Chile on Saturday afternoon. Broadlink KTM Rally Team rider Riaan van Niekerk was awarded the trophy for top rookie in the motorcycle race after finishing a very impressive 13th overall.
It was their second successive podium finish in an Imperial Toyota Hilux in the world's longest and toughest motor race – they were third last year at Toyota Motorsport's first attempt – and they won the T1.1 class for petrol-powered 4x4 improved cross-country vehicles for the second year in succession.
Last year's third place was the first podium place for a non-diesel since 2009 Dakar Rally. This year's result was the best ever for a Dakar 4x4 vehicle powered by a petrol engine in the history of South American-based Dakar rallies.
After 14 special stages in Peru, Argentina and Chile covering more than 4 000 kilometres and two crossings of the Andes Mountains at an altitude above 4 000 metres, the 2009 Dakar champions finished 42 minutes behind defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a Mini.
Third overall in the general classification for cars were Russians Leonid Novitskiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov in another Mini, 46 minutes behind De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz.
Saturday's final stage of 128 kilometres of fast tracks between La Serena and Santiago was won by PeterhanselÂ’s Spanish team-mate Nani Roma and co-driver Michel Perin of France in another Mini, from Argentine Orlando Terranova and Portugal's Paulo Fiuza in a BMW X3 and Argentinians Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue in another South African-built Toyota Hilux. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were fourth.
Three other Toyota Hilux 4x4s built by Kyalami-based Hallspeed for Toyota Motorsport were among the 92 finishers out of the 153 cars that started the rally in Lima, Peru, on 5 January.
Alvarez and Graue were classified 10th, the Australian/British duo of Geoffrey Olholm and Jonathan Aston were 11th and PolandÂ’s Adam Malysz and Rafal Marton were 15th.
'A great result'
"This is a great result for Toyota Motorsport and the all-South African Toyota Imperial Team," said team principal Glyn Hall. "It was achieved without any significant mechanical problem and it is testimony to the legendary toughness and reliability of South AfricaÂ’s best-selling bakkie.
"This was a mighty performance by Giniel and our honorary South African, Dirk, and also by every single member of our technical and support crew, whose dedication and commitment contributed massively to this proud achievement. I am privileged to be manager of this fine team."
'A victory for us'
De Villiers commented: "It was a difficult race, as usual. The Dakar is never easy. Second place Â– that counts as a victory for us.
"Last year we exceeded our expectations by far and this year, who would have believed we would better our third place then?
"We were a bit unlucky at times, which prevented us from finishing a bit closer to Stéphane. You need a bit of luck in the Dakar. You need the wind to blow in your favour. It wasn't always the case for us, but that's racing.
"The competition this year was a lot stronger than in 2012. There were numerous candidates for victory; we were the underdogs. Our reliability enabled us to not only beat the Dakar, but also made the decisive difference.
"Toyota's three-year programme got off to a first-class start. We can now move on and maybe do even better next year. I'm looking forward to that."
Von Zitzewitz added: "The saying 'To finish first, you first have to finish' was originally coined in Formula One, but it applies even more to the Dakar. I am incredibly proud of this result. Simply put, this Dakar was challenging, but we were up to it."
Broadlink KTM Rally Team star Riaan van Niekerk finished his first Dakar Rally with 22nd place on the final stage, just over eight-and-a-half minutes down on stage winner Ruben Faria. Brett Cummings, on a Honda, came home in 28th spot, and Darryl Curtis ended 60th after towing American Kurt Caselli.
The Dakar was a huge triumph for Van Niekerk. He was consistent throughout and became stronger as the event progressed. Joan Barreda won four stages, but finished in 17th place, behind Van Niekerk, which showed the 'steady does it approach' adopted by the South African star pays off in the Dakar.
Van Niekerk's team-mate Darryl Curtis had a more eventful race, but battled his way through a number of spills to finish in a fighting 32nd place. Cummings finished 43rd.
KTM's Cyril Despres claimed his fifth Dakar title, finishing just 10 minutes and 43 seconds ahead of final stage winner Faria and 18 minutes and 48 seconds ahead of Chile's Francisco Lopez. It was the closest finish since 2005 when Despres won for the first time, ahead of Marc Coma and South African legend Alfie Cox.
South African quad rider Sarel van Biljon was a force to be reckoned with, recording three stage victories, including the final stage. His position in the overall standings was unfortunately undermined by a disastrous stage nine, which led to him finishing only 21st overall.
The overall title went to Argentina's Marcos Patronelli for a second time. His brother Alejandro won in 2012.