Giniel de Villiers won Monday’s challenging second stage of the Dakar Rally, a 228-mile run from Al Wajh to Neom. The South African took advantage of a mistake made in the last few miles by fellow Toyota driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi (who led in confident style from the start) to claim the 15th stage win of his career by almost 4 minutes.
Second in Neom was Orlando Terranova, one of the few to avoid major mishaps on a stage featuring complicated navigation. Combined with his sixth-place finish in Stage 1, the Argentinean Mini driver has moved into the lead in the general standings by almost 5 minutes over Carlos Sainz.
“It was nice but very hard,” Terranova explained. “We had been pushing from the beginning and we got a puncture 60 kilometres from the start. So, I started to drive more gently. In one area, we saw Nasser going the opposite way. We knew that we were going in the right way, but we did a loop and it was a big mess. We lost a lot of time and started to get into a big fight until the neutralisation point. After that, I tried to push, but very carefully because it was still stony. But again, today it was okay and we did a good job.”
Sainz (Mini), a two-time winner of the event, finished sixth, 13 minutes behind de Villiers.
Fifth-place finisher Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) is still in touch, now third overall and just 6m behind Terranova; but Stage 1 winner Vaidotas Zala and runner-up Stephane Peterhansel (both in Minis) were 10th and 12th, respectively, at the finish, and dropped to fifth and eighth in the general standings.
The Mini drivers are in much better shape than F1 and Le Mans champion Fernando Alonso whose Toyota broke a wheel and lost 2h30m waiting for his assistance crew, a major blow to his (and Toyota’s) hopes.