Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa reached the ceremonial finish of the 2017 Dakar Rally with six of their original eight Toyota Hiluxes well positioned in the overall classification.
After one of the most dramatic Dakar rallies in history, thanks to inclement weather conditions, vastly differing temperatures, high altitude and daunting navigation, the Spanish crew of Joan Roma and navigator Alex Haro headed the team home in an Overdrive Racing car running with support from Monster Energy, Power Electronics and Air Europa.
The duo were careful through the final stage to confirm a comfortable fourth overall behind the record-breaking 13-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel, nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb and five-time winner Cyril Despres.
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz heading into the final day under a little pressure from Argentina’s Orlando Terranova. But De Villiers retained his composure to beat the Mendoza driver by 40 seconds and secure fifth place by the slender margin, in Dakar terms, of 2min 43sec.
Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and his South African co-driver Robert Howie ended their first Dakar Rally together in style with the fifth quickest time on the last special and that just emphasised the progress the former WRC driver has made in such a short time. It enabled the crew to bring the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Hiluxes to the finish in ninth place and gave Conrad the ‘Performance of the Day’ by rally officials.
Van Loon sixth fastest on final Dakar stage
The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar set some impressive stage times over the last few days of the Dakar in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux and SS12 was no exception, with Van Loon carding the sixth fastest stage of 29min 57sec to secure 14th overall.
Alejandro Yacopini and Daniel Merlo began the last stage in their native Argentina from 19th overall. There were no major dramas to follow and Yacopini reached Buenos Aires inside the top 20.
The Chinese crew of He Zhitao and Kai Zhao began the final special stage in 34th in the general classification after running behind their team-mates for long periods during the second week. They fulfilled the objective of finishing the event in the Boundless Yong Rally Team car run by Overdrive Racing in 34th overall.
Drivers have hit problems on final Dakar stages before, but the special stage was only 64km in length and took place close to R