Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota Hilux) back to 3rd overall in Dakar
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Team’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah slipped back to third in the overall standings after dropping 29min 16sec to the Ss10 winner Stéphane Peterhansel on a deceptively tricky 10th stage between Salta and Belén in Argentina.
Toyota team-mate Giniel de Villiers clocked the second quickest time. Al-Attiyah’s distance behind overall leader Carlos Sainz had been reduced by 10 minutes before the special had even started, following a time penalty imposed on the Spaniard for an alleged collision with a Dutch quad rider. The Qatari and French navigator Matthieu Baumel completed the first timed section of the day’s special in second position, 2min 36sec behind Peterhansel, and had shaved 10min 11sec off Sainz’s virtual overall lead. But the two-time race winner lost time after damaging the rear left of the Toyota Hilux after a jump in thick camel grass and now trail Sainz by 1hr 12min 46sec in the overall rankings. Second position for De Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz moved them to within 33 seconds of their team-mates, Bernhard Ten Brinke and French co-driver Michel Périn, in the overall rankings.
Ten Brinke dropped over 10 minutes on the first part of the stage – when he got stuck on a dune and recorded the seventh fastest split time – before going on to complete the timed test in fifth to maintain fourth overall. Following the cancellation of the stage from Tupiza to Salta, action resumed with a special stage of 373km in Argentina, held in punishing heat, between the northern city and the town of Belén. The stage started after the long road section from Salta and offered a section of sand dunes, in addition to numerous tricky gravel tracks, camel grass, river crossings, deceptive navigation and altitudes as high as 2,900 metres above sea level.
The temperatures are sure to rise as the Dakar reaches lower altitudes and what promises to be a very tricky pass through the baking hot white sand dunes at Fiambalá that have caused so much carnage on previous Dakar rallies. The special will run for 280km and a liaison section then guides teams to the night halt at the town of Chilecito in La Rioja Province.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah said: “It’s a bad day for us. At the same time, I’m happy to be at the stage finish, because we drove the last 70km with the broken rear left of the car. There was a large amount of camel grass and that’s where he had the problem. It is, perhaps, the result of damage from a big jump. It’s really a shame because we were doing a good stage. We took quite a lot of time from the rally leader on the first part of the stage.”
Giniel de Villiers said: “I had a little bit of stomach trouble today. But we tried to drive a clean stage and we only had one puncture to report. Our pace was really good. But it was a particularly difficult day, especially the second part with a lot of camel grass. I really feel for all the amateurs who are likely to finish in the night, because we are the first cars to finish and it is already 18.00hrs. Besides, we start very early again tomorrow for another big piece with Fiambalá. I have had very good moments and some very bad, so I hope tomorrow that we will have the privilege of the first option!”
Bernhard Ten Brinke said: “I made a mistake in the first part of the stage and we got stuck on a dune. It cost us eight minutes. We also had problems working the jacks and we lost another two minutes. It was really very hot today and, with all the vegetation that blocked the air vents, we had to stop to clear them, so that the Hilux did not overheat. In the second part, we had a puncture at the start. It was clearly a difficult day for us with a lot of problems, but I’m happy to have come through such a difficult stage.”
Tuesday 16th January / Salta-Belen / 372 km of stage
2. De Villiers-Von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) + 8’46’’
5. Ten Brinke-Perin (Toyota Hilux) + 22’22’’
10. Al Attiyah-Baumel (Toyota Hilux) + 29’16’’
3. Al Attiyah-Baumel (Toyota Hilux) + 1h12’46’’
4. Ten Brinke-Perin (Toyota Hilux) + 1h22’15’’
5. De Villiers-Von Zitzewitz (Toyota Hilux) + 1h22’48’’