Giniel de Villiers’ Dakar journey - Past/Present

From tractor racing to Dakar champion, Giniel de Villiers knows how to drive dirty.
Giniel De Villiers took fifth in his debut Dakar
Giniel De Villiers took fifth in his debut Dakar © Thierry Bovy/Dppi
By Tim Sturtridge

THEN: 2003 (Marseille, France to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt)

Giniel De Villiers jumped into his first set of wheels at four-years-old and has kept his foot down ever since. He caught the racing bug from his father and together they designed rally stages on the family farm for the youngster to tear around and develop his skills.

The second great influence on Giniel’s racing career has been Glyn Hall. The pair first teamed up when Glyn was the boss of Nissan Motorsport in South Africa. The pair dominated the local touring car scene with Glyn building the cars and Giniel taking them over the line.

Following Giniel’s four consecutive touring car championship titles between 1997 and 2000 it was time to find a fresh challenge. With the support of Nissan and Glyn Hall the switch was made from track to dirt and the result was a South African offroad racing championship title for Giniel.

After a string of impressive results on the international rally-raid scene, Giniel got his first ride at the Dakar Rally in 2003. Giniel wasted no time showing off his talent on the route from Marseille to Sharm el-Sheikh and drove his Glyn Hall developed Nissan Hardbody home in fifth place.

Giniel De Villiers saddles up for another Dakar
Giniel De Villiers saddles up for another Dakar © Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

NOW: 2014 (Rosario, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile)

After Giniel’s Dakar debut he returned with Nissan to race two more editions of the desert classic, collecting a few stage wins along the way. Volkswagen then recruited Giniel when Nissan pulled out of the race in 2005.

The South African was quick to repay the faith shown in him by Volkswagen as he recorded a runner-up finish in his first Dakar at the controls of the German manufacturer’s Race Touareg. It looked as though Giniel was going to go even better in his next attempt as he led the 2007 Dakar by a comfortable margin at the halfway point. However, mechanical problems hampered his progress on that occasion and he had to settle for an 11th place finish.

After coming so close it was tough for Giniel to see the following year’s Dakar suspended and when the race was restaged in South America he approached the start-line with fierce determination. A dominant display in the dunes from Giniel, alongside co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, saw him arrive in Buenos Aires as the race winner and begin a period of extended success for Volkswagen at the Dakar.

When Volkswagen eventually stepped away from the Dakar to concentrate on the World Rally Championship it was up to Giniel to find himself a new ride. After a quick chat with his old colleague Glyn Hall, now working with Toyota, a new ‘bakkie’ was in place for Giniel and Dirk to race at the 2012 Dakar.

Giniel’s first Dakar in the Toyota Hilux delivered a third place finish for his new team and last time out he and Dirk went one better and finished as runners-up. With this sequence of results in place the team are now gunning for victory at the 2014 Dakar Rally.

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