Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) successfully defended their third place overall when they finished in seventh place after special stage eight.
The 302-kilometre racing section, which followed a 522-kilometre liaison section from Salta in Argentina that saw the Dakar cavalcade cross the Andes Mountains through the Paso de Jama at just under 5 000 metres above sea level, was the second high altitude test in a row and was characterised by high speeds and narrow roads with limited overtaking opportunities at an average altitude of around 3 000 metres.
The 2009 Dakar champions were stuck behind the Mini of Russian/Ukrainian duo Vladimir Vasilyev and Vitaliy Yevtyekhov for 150 kilometres.
“Despite making use of the Sentinel system, which signals the driver ahead that you want to overtake, he didn’t make space, even when we were right next to him,” said De Villiers. “We lost a lot of time, at least three minutes, as a result. Any chance we had of making up time on our rivals today was gone. It was very frustrating.”
The stage, which ended in Calama, was won by Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz in a Mini, who finished 1m 12s ahead of defending champions Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France (Mini) and 2m 36s in front of Spain’s Carlos Sainz and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk (SMG Buggy). De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were 9m 21s behind the leaders and just two seconds slower than sixth-placed Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (Mini).
Roma and Perin remain in the overall lead with a reduced gap of 23m 46s to Peterhansel and Cottret. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 48m 25s in arrears and are now under threat from Argentina’s Orlando Terranova and Paulo Fiuza of Portugal (Mini), who have closed the gap to 3m 30s.