De Villiers moves to second position at Dakar Rally
Giniel de Villiers climbed to second overall in the Dakar Rally, after the ninth stage of the race, as South Africa's participation was cut back further with another withdrawal in Argentina on Monday.
De Villiers was fifth in the stage, the longest of the race at 842 kilometres, but with Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah dropping out of contention, he jumped one spot in the standings and opened a gap of more than six minutes over third-placed Russian Leonid Novistkiy.
The South African, however, remained 49 minutes behind runaway leader Stephane Peterhansel of France.
Sarel van Biljon, the only SA rider in the quad bikes division, saw his race come to a halt after he withdrew from the gruelling event.
Van Biljon had overcome torrid conditions to win the eighth stage in his category on Saturday, climbing to third overall ahead of the rest day at the midweek stage of the race.
He joined fellow South Africans Glen Grundy, on a bike, and the all-SA car teams of Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson, and Duncan Vos and Robert Howie, on the sidelines. The three other vehicles had pulled out of the race during the first week.
Meanwhile, Riaan van Niekerk clung to 14th position overall in the bikes division, after completiing the stage in 21st place, and Darryl Curtis dropped back one spot to 17th after finishing 31st on Monday.
“It’s been a really long day — very, very dusty. I didn’t crash, the bike’s still in one piece, and I’m ok,” Van Niekerk said.
“You won’t believe the number of spectators that are watching the race. It’s incredible.
“There are people everywhere, at every corner, cheering and waving and thousands of them in the towns. It’s mind-boggling.” Brett Cummings shifted further up the field as he continued his late charge, climbing another five places in the standings to 60th after taking 48th for the stage.