Giniel de Villiers

25/3/1972

Giniel de Villiers
Best known for winning the 2009 Dakar Rally, he began his career in 1993 and going on to win four South African touring car championship in succession from 1997 to 2000 before switching to competing off road.


Born in Barrydale, South Africa, De Villiers began his career in 1993 circuit racing. In 1994 in just his second season he took the South African title in Group N, drivinr a Nissan Sentra. He won a total of four South African touring car championship in succession from 1997 to 2000 with a dealer-backed Nissan Primera. 

Then in 2001 he switched to off-road racing with a Nissan Pickup winning the South African Off-Road championship in his first year. He made his Dakar Rally debut in 2003 driving for the works Nissan team. Finishing fifth overall at first attempt alongside navigator Pascal Maimon, de Villiers took his first stage victory in 2004 on the way to seventh overall alongside François Jordaan and won two stages in 2005, ending fourth overall with Jean-Marie Lurquin.

De Villiers switched his allegiance to Volkswagen when Nissan withdrew their factory team at the end of 2005 and took wins in the Rally Transiberico and Rally Morocco, as well as second places on the Dakar Rally and Tunisian Rally in 2006.

Engine trouble prevented de Villiers and his new navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz finishing any higher than eleventh overall in 2007, in spite of four stage victories. Then in 2009, de Villiers and Zitzewitz took the overall victory, albeit largely as a result of their teammate Carlos Sainz retiring whilst in a commanding position. More engine trouble in 2010 prevented de Villiers and von Zitzewitz from being able to defend their crown, the pair finishing just seventh overall, but they were able to finish in a strong runner-up position to teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah in 2011 with another stage victory.

With the withdrawal of VW in 2011 De Villiers and Zitzewitz joined the South African Imperial Toyota team for 2012 and 2013. In 2012, Giniel and Dirk finished third and in 2013 the pair came home as runners-up. During the 2014 Dakar, Giniel was gunning for the win and claimed four podium finishes throughout the 13 stages, including a win in the final stage in Valparaíso, and finished the rally in fourth place overall. In 2015, he almost tasted victory with a runner-up position and remained in great shape the following year, taking third place on the podium in 2016. He finished in fifth-place overall in the 2017 edition of the Dakar and was back on the podium in third place in 2018.

An rock and a broken wheel dashed his hopes of victory on day three in Peru in the 2019 Dakar and he had to settle for ninth place though he won the South African all-terrain Championship for the third consecutive year. He also won Morocco Rally in October ahead of most of the sport's front-runners. 

For the 2020 event after 11 Dakars with Dirk Von Zitzewitz he had Alex Haro by his side. They won one stage on the way to 5th place.

De Villiers also took part in the 2009 Race of Champions, forming an 'All-Star' team alongside David Coulthard. The pair however failed to advance from the group stages of the Nations Cup competition, whilst de Villiers finished bottom of his group during the individual event.


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