Sunday’s special stage – a 533km loop from Salta back to Salta at an average altitude of 3500m – saw South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota Imperial Hilux) move into third place overall after starting the day fourth.
It was a frustrating stage for the 2009 champions, with the high altitude sapping the normally-aspirated, petrol-engined Toyota of power. The effect was compounded by the fact that it was a very fast stage run at full throttle for much of the time. Wild llamas also proved to be an unusual hazard and De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz were fortunate to narrowly miss one.
The racing section was won by Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk of Germany (SMG Buggy), who finished 4m 45s ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz. Third were defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a MINI (+7m 26s) followed by Nani Roma of Spain and French co-driver Michel Perin in another MINI (+8m 56s).
Roma and Perin remain in the overall lead with an advantage of 31m 53s over Peterhansel and Cottret (MINI). De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz are 46m 23s in arrears and 13m 50s ahead of fourth-placed Orlando Terranova of Argentina and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza (MINI), who were given a 15-minute retrospective penalty on the rest day in Salta for unsportsmanlike behaviour.
It was another long and disappointing day in the dust for De Villiers’ South African team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux. After starting in 26th position on the road and 29th in the general classification, Dakar rookie Poulter and Howie came in 68th on the stage, 3h 13m 48s behind the leaders and have dropped to 30th overall.