Giniel de Villiers is a professional racing driver from South Africa, best known as the winner of 2009 Dakar Rally, while he was driving a Volkswagen Race Touareg.
Until 2020, he participated seventeen times at world's toughest cross-country race, scoring seven more podiums in addition to victory in 2009. Most recently, he was on a podium at 2018 Dakar Rally, finishing third with Toyota Hilux.
Giniel de Villiers
Multiple South African touring car champion
Giniel de Villiers was born on March 25, 1972, in Barrydale in the Western Cape Province. Giniel started his career racing on the circuits and did it very well. Over the years, he won four national Touring Car Championship titles driving a Nissan Primera, including three in a row between 1997 and 1999. De Villiers raced on the tracks until 2001 when he decided to make a big change. Next step in Giniel’s career was the off-road racing and won the South African Off-Road championship that year
Dakar Rally debut in 2003 with Nissan
In 2003 he made the first appearance in Dakar Rally, world’s most demanding but also the most popular rally event. He was a member of the Nissan factory team on his debut in 2003. With Pascal Maimon as a navigator, de Villiers finished 5th that year what was an excellent achievement for the rookie.
Nissan Pickup of Giniel de Villiers at 2005 Dakar Rally, Stage 14
The South African stayed with Nissan for another two years and again was pretty successful. In 2004, with Francois Jordaan as a navigator, he won the stage for the first time before finishing 7th overall, while in 2005, with Jean-Marie Lurquin, he was 4th with two stage wins.
Move to Volkswagen team
After parting ways with the Japanese manufacturer, de Villiers in 2006 signed with Volkswagen. The first attempt with a new car was almost triumphant. Giniel with a co-driver Tina Thorner finished as a runner-up in Dakar Rally that year, losing to Mitsubishi pilot Luc Alphand by 17:53 minutes.
Giniel in Volkswagen, 2006 Dakar Rally
The following year wasn’t as good after he dropped to the 11th place overall, even after winning four stages of 2007 Dakar Rally. He had a comfortable lead from eventual winner Stephane Peterhansel in Mitsubishi, with less than half the rally remaining, when his Volkswagen suffered an under-bonnet fire.
De Villiers won 2009 Dakar Rally
The 2009 Dakar Rally was marked by Giniel’s triumph. Driving a Volkswagen Race Toureg, with a Dirk von Zitzewitz as a navigator, de Villiers won four stages – two in the first, and two in the second week of the race. At the end of the race, he was 8:59 ahead of runner-up Mark Miller in the second Volkswagen’s car.
Giniel de Villiers, 2009 Dakar Rally winner
The South African spent another two years driving for the German manufacturer. In 2010 he was 7th overall, without stage wins, while in 2011, after winning one stage, de Villiers for the second time finished DakarRally as a runner-up, this time losing to Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah. That year Volkswagen scored 1-2-3 finish after Carlos Sainz completed a podium.
Victory at Dakar Rally wasn’t the only success that Giniel achieved with Volkswagen. He also won the Rally Transiberico and Rally Morocco, and finished 2nd in the Tunisian Rally. In 2009, de Villiers and Formula 1 star David Coulthard formed an All-star team in the Race of Champions but they failed to advance from the group stage.
Switch to Toyota
The withdrawal of VW from Dakar Rally after 2011 edition was a blow for the endurance rally racing veteran, but another opportunity soon followed. The South African Imperial Toyota team offered de Villiers and von Zitzewitz to continue doing what they do best. Now in the seat of Toyota Hilux pick-up, they finished 3rd in 2012, while in the following year they finished second despite failing to score a single stage win in both years.
Giniel de Villiers, Toyota, 2012 Dakar Rally
However, in 2013 de Villiers was first in the class for four-wheel drive petrol-engined vehicles in an evolution version of the Imperial Toyota Hilux. It was his 10th Dakar Rally, his fourth podium in five years and his ninth top 10 finish what made him the most consistent driver of the past decade.
Fine form continues
After two years without a stage win, Giniel finally scored one in 2014, the final stage in Valparaiso, but he dropped to the 4th in the final classification. In 2015, he almost tasted victory with a runner-up position, behind Nasser Al-Attiyah in Mini, and remained in great shape the following year.
Giniel de Villiers at 2015 Dakar Rally
In 2016, Giniel de Villiers again finished the Dakar Rally without a stage win, but at the end of the race, the South African was at the podium, taking the 3rd place, behind Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah. In 2017, driving the all-new Toyota Hilux Evo, he was again among the top runners and finished 5th overall.
De Villiers added one more Dakar Rally podium to his CV in 2018, finishing third behind Peugeot's Carlos Sainz and teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah. In January 2019, still driving a Toyota Hilux, he finished in the ninth place. A year later, he was fifth, again in a Toyota Hilux.
Giniel de Villiers (right) and his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz are celebrating 2018 Dakar Rally podium