Dakar 2019 got underway on Monday, January 7, with participants storming into the 5 000-km race from the start point in Lima, Peru. While previous events – staged since 2009 in South America – have routed through neighbouring countries Argentina and Chile, the 2019 event is 100-percent Peru, starting and ending in Lima.
With just three stages down (the fourth is being run today), Dakar 2019 has already produced all the thrills and spills associated with the event.
In the Trucks category, 2018 winner Eduard Nikolaev of the Kamaz Master Team has held the overall category lead since the start of the race. The number 505 driver is currently eight minutes and 25 seconds ahead of fellow Kamaz Master Team driver Dmirty Sotnikov (514), despite losing five minutes in the third stage and ending it in third place behind Sotnikov and fellow Kamaz Master Team driver Andrey Karginov (518).
Currently rounding out the top three in the Trucks category is driver Federico Villagra in the number 505 Petronas De Rooy Iveco.
South African driver Giniel De Villiers, in the number 302 Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, got off to a strong start and finished the first stage 2:40 off the pace of stage winner Nasser Al-Attiyah in the sister 301 Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux.
By the end of stage two, De Villiers was flying the South African flag high, having moved up to first place in the overall rankings with a 28-second lead.
However, by the end of stage three yesterday, the South African’s efforts took a major blow as he lost a devastating four and a half hours after hitting a rock hidden in the sand. This destroyed the Hilux’s sump guard and cracked the sump, leading to a loss of oil pressure. The number 302 Hilux now sits in position 40, the exact middle of the Cars category. This handed the category lead back to Al-Attiyah.
“For now, all we can do is to keep racing,” said the De Villiers. “Yes, we’ve lost a ton of time, but the Dakar is never over until it’s over. We’ll keep pushing and supporting our teammates.”
The fourth stage takes place today in Arequipa. Dakar 2019 will end on Thursday, January 17, back in Lima.