Friday the 13th: A true Dakar challenge

The Dakar is heading towards “the grand finale”. Every competitor was driving strategically today. On the one hand, they do not want to force a vehicle breakdown so close to the finish. On the other hand, competitors in contention for a podium finish, have to push their cars to the limit, which requires taking risks. The Toyota teams have no opportunity to sit back and relax; they must keep the pressure on. The strategy paid off with four Toyota drivers ending up in the top ten today: Giniel De Villiers in 4thplace, Erik Van Loon in 7th, Conrad Rautenbach in 8th and Nani Roma in 9th (putting Roma 4th in the overall rankings). The final surf to Buenos Aires has begun.

Today was another difficult stage for all, but it went rather well for the Toyota teams. TGRSA driver Giniel de Villiers: “Overall it was a good day. We have two minutes to play with tomorrow, so I think we have to push. We can still compete with the Minis, the Peugeots are too far ahead. They have better cars and deserve to win. We have more work to do and try again next year.” Overdrive Toyota driver Erik van Loon #310: “It went very well today. I thought we’ve lost of lot of time, but in the end this was not the case. Ending up in 7th position in this field makes me very satisfied.”

The stage consisted of sand for over 80 km. There were steep hills to climb, the course was narrow and covered with bushes. For Overdrive Toyota driver Conrad Rautenbach #320, it was a great race today: “I’m satisfied about today. Now we only have to drive the last 64 km.  My goal is just trying to get to the finish. For my first Dakar, ending within the top ten is great.” According to co-driver Alex Hard Bravo of #305, the drivetrain gave the team a bit of a headache. “We had some trouble with the transmission, which we had to fix during the race. Still finishing in 9th place is a good result.”

In the production category there will be victory for Toyota tomorrow. With TLC drivers Christian Lavieille #327 and Akira Miura #332, Toyota has conquered the Dakar. Once again they finished in 1st and 2nd in the production category and are still 1st and 2nd in their category overall. They are definitely heading for the podium tomorrow.

Facing the competitors tomorrow: The last day of the rally,  a short sprint to the finish line in Buenos Aires. Some may feel that the race is all but decided but those representing Toyota will not give up until they have reached the finish line. 

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