“If it does not work a change of direction will be needed…”
Call him ‘Mr. Consistency'. In 13 Dakar participations, Giniel De Villiers has never retired, even better, he has only finished once outside the Top 10 with the highlight of his career coming when he triumphed in 2009 in a Volkswagen Race Touareg. For a team, having the South African in the ranks is a guarantee of good results and thus exposure. Son of a regular in South African rallying, Giniel, however, got his start in circuit racing in touring cars. It wasn't until 2001 that he got a taste of cross-country. Nissan then gave him the chance to take part in the world's most famous rally raid in 2003. Since his title in the first South American Dakar, the 43-year old driver carried on being a front-runner when he moved to Toyota, following VW's withdrawal from the sport. A switch made to a Hilux pick-up with near perfection that has taken him to four podium finishes over the past five years (3rd in 2012, then 2nd in 2013 and 2015 and another 3Rd last year). The discreet de Villiers has though admitted to being slightly disappointed with his 2016 Dakar where he wasn't able to compete with Team Peugeot. Following a year essentially spent developing his car, notably in the Kalahari Desert, de Villiers and long-time co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz will have one last chance to win in the 4x4 model. Optimistic in regards to the new regulations concerning the air-inlet and boosted by the arrival of Nasser Al Attiyah, he believes he was it takes to battle with the overwhelming favorites at Peugeot. If this doesn't work out, he will then turn to the two-wheel drive version that is already in development. The Dakar adventure is far from over for Giniel De Villiers.
G.D.V.: “If I had to describe the Dakar in one word, I would say ‘adventure'. Of course, it is an enormous race, but above all else it is still an adventure, both human and extreme. Clearly the Dakar is part of my life. It is the most important event of my season. I have been preparing for a year and the other races that I participate in are for me to remain battle-hardened. During the 2016 edition, I realized, right from the opening stages, that the Peugeots would be tough to beat. Yeah, there was probably a little disappointment despite finishing on the podium. Me, I want to win. We have worked to improve the car during the year. More than 3,000kms of testing. The base is very good and we can count on some enormous improvements. In any case, it is the fastest Hilux I have ever driven. It showed its potential on the Morocco Rally in dominating Peugeot (Al Attiyah ahead of Sainz). Moreover, the arrival of Al Attiyah at Toyota is a real asset for the team. He is the fastest guy around. For me, it is an extra challenge and it forces us to raise our game. It is very good. The fact that there is a new air inlet regulation will, I hope, change things. Now if we don't win, then we will have to take a new direction.”