TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews complete eventful 2020 Dakar opener
All four TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews successfully completed an eventful opening stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which saw crews travel north up the Red Sea coast from Jeddah to Al Wajh, a route totalling 752 kilometres including a 319-kilometre special stage billed as a “mini-Dakar” for its many varying types of terrain crews had to navigate.
It was a day of punctures across the board with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews picking up a combined eleven punctures between the four Toyota Hilux race cars. Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel opened the rally and set the early pace but lost time towards the end of the stage with three punctures in short succession. The pair ended the day in fourth place, 5min 33sec behind the leaders.
Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro suffered four flat tyres today, the last being a slow puncture which forced the crew to stop and inflate the tyre using a manual on-board system. They finished the stage in 14th place, 23min 16sec from the overall leader.
It was a relatively clean run for Bernhard ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul with the pair posting the second-fastest time of the four TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews despite also picking up two punctures, the final one just one kilometre from the end of the special stage. They are now sitting in fifth place overall, 6min 30sec behind the leaders.
Fernando Alonso took on his first-ever Dakar Rally special stage with navigator Marc Coma starting from 10th on the road. The duo also had to deal with two punctures and lost additional time due to tricky navigation on the route, bringing their Hilux home 11th fastest overall, losing 15min 27sec to the leaders.
Punctures played a key role in the results across the field and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crews will be looking for a better result on Stage 2 which will take the rally from Al Wajh to the future city of Neom featuring a 367-kilometre special stage with the total distance of the day clocking in at 393 kilometres. The stage will take place mainly on hard tracks which means the risk of punctures will again be high for all crews.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal: “Although today’s result wasn’t what we wanted, it does put our crews in a better road position tomorrow. Nasser led the stage quite easily today but the three punctures he suffered took the wind out of his sails, with all three happening within a 20 kilometre stretch. This meant that Nasser had to drive the last part of the stage with no spare wheels. Bernhard did a great job today for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, finishing just one minute behind Nasser but also picked up two punctures but he tells us the Hilux had no problems. Giniel also suffered from punctures, with a suspected fourth which turned out to be a faulty tyre sensor. With the three punctures happening fairly early on in the stage. Giniel lost 19 minutes which is a pretty big challenge at the start of the Dakar Rally. Fernando, also with two punctures, had a really good first taste of a special stage at the Dakar Rally. Finishing today in 11th is just short of his target to finish in the Top 10 so I feel he’s done tremendously well on a very difficult stage. I’m happy that Fernando has now officially joined the ‘Dakar Club’. The challenges crews faced today were rocks hidden under the sand which is where most people probably picked up their punctures.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (No. 300): “It was a hard-going day but I think we did a good job. Apart from the three flat tyres which meant we had to stop three times to change, it’s nice to be at the finish of the stage. It was a new experience for all of us to do the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia but I’m feeling relaxed. The terrain was not easy at all today, just like it was when the Dakar Rally was in Africa, and in some ways similar to the tough conditions we experienced in Morocco. I think this is a good place to race.”
Giniel de Villiers (No. 304): “Not a good day for us with four punctures through the difficult day. The slow puncture meant we had to inflate it to keep going. I had to do about a hundred kilometres with no spare tyres so I had to be cautious. Coming into Day 1, I was a bit under the weather which didn’t help at all. It was just survival mode until the end of the day.”
Bernhard ten Brinke (No. 307): “I think it was quite a tough day overall but we performed strongly. Tom did a good job and we made no big mistakes. I think we lost only thirty seconds due to some tricky navigation. I decided not to push too hard because the route was really rocky and we had a puncture on the front left tyre which we managed to change in a zone with restricted speeds. One or two kilometres from the finish, we picked up another puncture but we made it to the end of the stage. The Hilux performed well throughout the day and we had no problems so I’m happy. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso (No. 310): “It feels great to finally arrive and start the Dakar Rally. Obviously, it’s an adventure that I’ve been very excited about and we did OK today. We had some challenges with navigation and lost a bit of time but it’s all part of the game. It happened to us today, and maybe it’ll happen to others on another day. Overall, Marc and I are very happy with the Hilux and happy with our performance and our confidence is building day by day.”
2020 Dakar Rally Day 1 Results:
4th No. 300 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel, +5min 33sec
5th No. 307 Bernhard ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul, +6min 30sec
11th No. 310 Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma, +15min 27sec
14th No. 304 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro, +23min 16sec